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DE LA RAMA v. DE LA RAMA

April 2, 1906

DE LA RAMA
v.
DE LA RAMA



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day

Author: Brown

[ 201 U.S. Page 307]

 MR. JUSTICE BROWN, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

An important question of jurisdiction is presented by the record in this case. It has been a long established rule that the courts of the United States have no jurisdiction upon the subject of divorce, or for the allowance of alimony, either as an original proceeding in chancery, or an incident of a divorce or separation, both by reason of fact that the husband and wife cannot usually be citizens of different States, so long as the marriage relation continues (a rule which has been somewhat relaxed in recent cases), and for the further reason that a suit for divorce in itself involves no pecuniary value. Barber v. Barber, 21 How. 582, and the analogous cases of Kurtz v. Moffitt, 115 U.S. 487; Durham v. Seymour, 161 U.S. 235, and Perrine v. Slack, 164 U.S. 452.

[ 201 U.S. Page 308]

     But the general rule above stated has no application to the jurisdiction of the territorial courts, or of the appellate jurisdiction of this court over those courts. Hence, we held in Simms v. Simms, 175 U.S. 162, that an appeal lies from a decree of the Supreme Court of a Territory dismissing the suit of a husband for a divorce and awarding to a wife alimony and counsel fees, amounting in all to more than $5,000, so far as the decree fixes the alimony. This was an appeal from the Supreme Court of Arizona, and the court held that the above considerations expressed in Barber v. Barber, 21 How. 582, had no application to the appellate jurisdiction of this court over the courts of a Territory; that Congress, having entire dominion and sovereignty over Territories, "has full legislative power over all subjects upon which the legislature of the State might legislate within the State; and may, at its discretion, entrust that power to the legislative assembly of a Territory," citing Cope v. Cope, 137 U.S. 682. It was further held that so far as the question of divorce was concerned, the decree could not be reviewed by this court, "both because that was a matter the value of which could not be estimated in money; and because the refusal of the divorce involved no matter of law, but mere questions of fact depending on the evidence, and which this court is not authorized to re-examine." It was further said "the decree for alimony and counsel fees, although in one sense an incident to the suit for divorce, is a distinct and severable final judgment in favor of the defendant for a sum of money of a sufficient jurisdictional amount, and is therefore good ground of appeal." The appeal in that case did not involve the merits.

The intimation that this court could not review the refusal of the divorce because it could not re-examine questions of fact was undoubtedly thrown out in view of the Territorial Practice Act of April 7, 1874, 18 Stat. 27, providing that "on appeal" (from a territorial court) "instead of the evidence at large, a statement of the facts of the case in the nature of a special verdict, and also the rulings of the court on the admission or

[ 201 U.S. Page 309]

     rejection of evidence when excepted to, shall be made and certified by the court below, and transmitted to the Supreme Court, together with the transcript of the proceedings and judgment or decree."

Since that act was passed we have always held that the jurisdiction of this court on an appeal from the Supreme Court of a Territory did not extend to a reexamination of the facts, but was limited to determining whether the findings of fact supported the judgment, and to reviewing errors in the admission or rejection of testimony, when exceptions have been duly taken to the action of the court in this particular. Stringfellow v. Cain, 99 U.S. 610; Eilers v. Boatman, 111 U.S. 356; Idaho &c. Land Co. v. Bradbury, 132 U.S. 509; Mammoth Mining Company v. Salt Lake Machine Co., 151 U.S. 447; Young v. Amy, 171 U.S. 179.

This act, however, has no application to the Philippine Islands, appeals from the Supreme Court of which are regulated by section 10 of the act of July 1, 1902, 32 Stat. 691, wherein it is declared that appeals from the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands shall extend to all actions, cases, causes and proceedings "in which the value in controversy exceeds $25,000." These are reviewable on appeal or writ of error by the party aggrieved, in the same manner as the final judgments and decrees of the Circuit Courts of the United States. There is no requirement that the facts shall be found. Appeals from the final decrees in these (Circuit) courts extend to an examination of the facts as well as the law. While upon such review this court will generally accept the concurrent conclusions of the trial and appellate courts, yet, as was said by Mr. Justice Brewer in Beyer v. LeFevre, 186 U.S. 114, 119: "There has always been recognized the right and duty of this court to examine the record, and if it finds that the conclusions are wholly unwarranted by the testimony it will set the verdict or report aside and direct a reexamination."

In this case there was no finding of facts either by the Court of First Instance, or by the Supreme Court of the Islands, except

[ 201 U.S. Page 310]

     as they appear in the opinion. It is doubtful whether this is a finding of facts within the statute, Lehnen v. Dickson, 148 U.S. 71; British Queen Mining Co. v. Baker Silver Mining Co., 139 U.S. 222; Dickinson v. Planters' Bank, 16 Wall. 250; Saltonstall v. Birtwell, 150 U.S. 417; Stone v. United States, 164 U.S. 380, but in any event it is not binding upon us in the absence of an authority to make it.

While, as indicated in Simms v. Simms, the decree for alimony, although in one sense an incident to the suit for divorce, is a distinct and final judgment for a sum of money, and is therefore a good ground for appeal from that part of the decree; yet, where the appeal is from the whole decree (as in this case), or even from a part of the decree, and the denial of alimony or separation of the conjugal property depends upon the evidence which bears upon the right to a divorce, we cannot determine that question without passing upon the sufficiency of the testimony authorizing or refusing the divorce. An appeal from the decree for alimony or other property right would be of no value whatever, unless the facts connected with the allowance or refusal of such right were open to review in the appellate court. Although an appeal from a part of a decree does not bring up the part not appealed from, yet, if the whole decree must be reviewed in order to decide the appeal, such appeal brings up the entire record. Kelsey v. Western, 2 N.Y. 500; Union Trust Company v. Trumbull, 137 Illinois, 146, 159; Walker v. Pritchard, 121 Illinois, 221, 227. The case is even stronger where the appeal is taken from the whole decree.

The hardship of denying an appeal in this case, as well as review of the testimony upon the subject of divorce, is apparent when the peculiar provisions of the Philippine Code are considered.

By article 1315: "Persons who may be joined in matrimony may, before celebrating it, execute contracts, etc. In the absence of contracts relating to property, it shall be understood that the marriage has been contracted under the system of legal conjugal partnership."

[ 201 U.S. Page 311]

     Article 1401: "To the conjugal ...


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