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United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co. v. State

February 24, 1947

UNITED STATES FIDELITY & GUARANTY CO.
v.
STATE ET AL.



Appeal from Superior Court, Maricopa County; Howard C. Speakman, Judge.

LaPrade, Judge. Stanford, C. J., and Udall, J., concur.

LA Prade

[65 Ariz Page 213] Frank L. James was informed against in the Superior Court of Maricopa County for the crime of obtaining money by means of a bogus check, a felony, and admitted to bail in the sum of $750. Bail being furnished by the defendant's undertaking, on which the appellant United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, a corporation, was surety, the defendant was released from custody. The bail bond was conditioned that James would personally appear before the court to answer the information; at all times render himself amenable to all orders and processes of the court; and render himself for trial upon the same. Defendant appeared for arraignment with counsel, entered a plea of not guilty, and the case was regularly set down for trial on a day certain. On the trial date counsel for the state and defendant appeared in open court, whereupon the state announced that it was ready for trial. Defendant did not appear, and no legal cause being shown to excuse his absence, the court entered its order forfeiting defendant's bail, and ordered a bench warrant for his apprehension. Ten days having elapsed and the forfeiture not having been discharged, the county attorney, by the authority of the provisions contained in section 44-451, A.C.A.1939, filed in the office of the clerk of the court a certified copy of the order of the judge forfeiting the undertaking, together with a written request to docket and enter a judgment in the amount of the bond in favor of the county and against defendant Frank L.

James and his surety. The clerk complied with this request, docketed the same, and entered judgment against each of them. Thereafter United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company filed a motion to vacate the judgment upon the ground that as to it the judgment was null and void for the reason that it was entered by the clerk of the court without authority of law. The motion to vacate was denied, whereupon appellant perfected this appeal from the judgment and the order denying its motion to vacate the judgment.

Briefly summarized, appellant's assignment of error is to the effect that the judgment was entered without authority of law for the reason that it was entered and docketed by the clerk of the superior court without any order for judgment by the judge of the court. In support of this assignment, appellant submits the following propositions of law, which we have summarized.

I

That the clerk of the court has no judicial authority, and that judicial authority cannot be conferred upon the clerk by a rule promulgated by the Supreme Court.

II

That section 44-451, A.C.A.1939, being a rule of court, is in violation of and in excess of the powers granted the Supreme Court by Ch. 8, Laws of Arizona 1939 (Art. 2, Ch. 19, A.C.A.1939), and that said rule deprives appellant of the substantive right of a trial by jury as provided by section 5171, R.C.A.1928, in effect at the time of the adoption of the rule contained in section 44-451, A.C.A.1939, and as guaranteed by the Constitution, sec. 23 of Art. 2.

Appellant's first proposition of law asserting that the clerk of the court has no judicial authority, and that judicial authority cannot be conferred upon the clerk by a rule promulgated by the Supreme Court, in our opinion, is without merit. Appellant argues that by our State Constitution the judicial power of the state is vested in the Supreme Court, superior courts, justices of the peace, and such courts inferior to the superior courts as may be provided by law. Art. 6, sec. 1, Ariz.Const. The statutes enacted subsequent to the adoption of the Constitution defining the powers and duties of the clerk of the court were all statutes relating to procedure and the functioning of the court. We pointed out in Burney v. Lee, 59 Ariz. 360, 129 P.2d 308, 311, that the rule-making power is essentially judicial in its nature, and that the act conferring rule-making power upon the court "was not unconstitutional as an unauthorized delegation of legislative power, but was merely a withdrawal by the legislature from the field in which it had at most merely concurrent power with the courts." By the rules adopted no attempt has been made to confer upon the clerk of the court the authority to make an order for a judgment, which right is vested solely in the court, speaking through its judge. In the instant case, the predicate for the judgment, that was physically entered by the

clerk, was the order of the court forfeiting the bond. The clerk's duties are not purely ministerial, but are rather an integral part of the whole judicial process. The clerk of the court from time immemorial has been considered an officer of the court and as such endowed with certain judicial authority to aid and promote the judicial process. The clerk of the court is a constitutional officer "who shall have such powers and perform such duties * * *, as shall be provided by law." Art. 6, sec. 18, Ariz.Const. A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court, sec. 21-301, A.C.A.1939: this is physically accomplished by filing the complaint with the clerk. Summons is issued by the clerk, sec. 21-302, A.C.A.1939. All mesne process and process to enforce and execute judgments, for entering defaults, and for other proceedings which do not require allowance or order of court are grantable of course by the clerk, such as taxing costs, sec. 21-1204, A.C.A. 1939; entering defaults when party against whom judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, sec. 21-1205, A.C.A. 1939; entering judgment on direction of court when prevailing party recovers only money or costs, sec. 21-1230, A.C.A. 1939; and, entering judgment when party asserting claim accepts offer of defending party to allow judgment to be taken against him ...


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