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offences and misdemeanors against the laws of this state, other than those in the section next preceding mentioned, which shall be done or committed within said county, and which shall legally be brought before him ; to cause all persons guilty or suspected to be guilty thereof, to be apprehended, examined, bailed or committed to jail, according to law, to answer therefor before the supreme court or court of common pleas.
SEC. 5. Every justice of the peace within the town in which he resides shall have power, according to the provisions of law, to take the acknowledgment of deeds and other instruments, to administer oaths, to take depositions, and to do all such other acts as are or shall be committed to justices of the peace, by the general assembly.
Sec. 6. Whenever complaint in writing, and under oath, shall be made to any justice of the peace,
any person within his county is a lunatic, or so furiously mad as to render it dangerous to the peace or safety of the good people of the state for him to be at large, and that such person is at large, such justice of the peace shall issue his warrant under his hand and seal, returnable forthwith, directed to the sheriff, deputy sheriffs, town sergeants and constables in said county, requiring the officer charged therewith to apprehend the accused, and have him, with such warrant, before said justice, or some other magistrate, for examination relative to such complaint. And if said justice, on such examination, shall adjudge such complaint to be true, he shall, unless a recognizance satisfactory to said justice, be then given before him that said person shall not be permitted to go at large until restored, by warrant under his hand and seal, commit such
person to the county jail, there to be detained until he, in the judgment of some magistrate in the county on inspection, shall be restored to soundness of mind, or until recognizance satisfactory to some such magistrate shall be given with like condition. And the costs of his apprehension, commitment and detention shall be paid by such person, if he have any estate, otherwise by the person or town upon whom his maintenance was chargeable, if he had not been committed.
Sec. 7. Every justice of the peace shall have original and exclusive jurisdiction of all civil actions, legally brought before them, wherein the debt or damages demanded do not exceed twenty dollars, excepting only actions relating to real estate or some easement therein, in which the title to the same may be in dispute, or those over which jurisdiction hath
been or may be conferred on some other tribunal, with power to enter up judgment and award execution therein.
Sec. 8. The original writ, in any such case, shall be in the name of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations; shall be signed by a justice of the peace of the town where the action shall be commenced ; and shall be directed to the sheriff, his deputy, or to either of the town sergeants or constables in the county in which such suit shall be brought ; and in case both parties live in the same county, then the action shall be brought either in the town where the plaintiff lives, or in the town where the defendant lives, or is to be found, except in cases in which a different provision is made by law. But in case the parties live in different counties, then the plaintiff may commence his action before any justice of the peace in any town in the county where the defendant lives, or may be found. Every such writ shall contain the plaintiff's declaration at length, and shall be served six days, at least, before the day of trial named therein.
Sec. 9. All writs, summons, and executions issued in pursuance of this act shall be served and levied and returned in the manner pointed out in the act entitled “an act prescribing the forms of writs and manner of serving them;" and any person who shall become bail for any defendant, and all goods and chattels attached on any such writ, shall be holden thereon, notwithstanding the justice who signed such writ shall, after judgment rendered thereon, cease to sustain said office.
Sec. 10. When an action of trespass shall be brought before any justice of the peace, and the defendant shall plead
, the general issue, he shall not be allowed to offer any evidence that may bring the title of real estate in question ; and when the defendant in any such action shall plead the title of himself
or any other person in justification, the justice, upon having such plea filed, shall require the defendant to give bond to the adverse party in a reasonable sum, with sufficient surety or sureties, to enter the said action at the next court of common pleas to be holden within the same county, and to prosecute the same in the same manner as upon an appeal from a justice's judgment; and if such defendant shall refuse so to give bond, the justice shall render judgment against him in the same manner as if he had refused to make answer to the suit ; and either party in such case shall be allowed to appeal from the judgment of the court of common pleas, in the same manner as if the suit had been originally commenced there.
Sec. 11. In all actions triable before a justice of the peace, except such actions of trespass wherein the defendant means to avail himself by pleading, of the title of himself, or any other person under whom he claims, as is provided in the next preceding section, the defendant shall be entitled to all evidence under the general issue which by law he might avail himself of under any special plea in bar whatever.
SEC. 12. In all actions on book account for goods, wares or merchandise sold, or for work or labor done, the plaintiff shall annex a particular account thereof to his writ; and when the whole amount is more than twenty dollars, and the balance stated by the plaintiff doth not exceed that sum, he may bring his action for such balance, annexing his account of debt and credit to the writ, to the end that it may appear how the said balance arose, and shall declare specially thereon; and the defendant in such action may exhibit in court his account against the plaintiff, and the court shall settle the true balance or difference of their account,give judgment therein,and award execution for such balance, (if by the adjustment and judgment of the court it doth not exceed twenty dollars,) with costs : provided, that where the account exhibited by the defendant shall exceed the sum of twenty dollars, and in the opinion of the court there shall be due the defendant thereon a greater amount than twenty dollars, then and in such case, the court shall render judgment against the plaintiff, as in case of nonsuit, and for the defendant for his costs only; and shall not any further adjudicate upon the account of the defendant, whose right to sue for the same shall remain in the same manner as before the commencement of said action of the plaintiff : provided always, and it is the true intent hereof, that all actions for the recovery of money due on any note or other instrument in writing, which was given originally for twenty dollars, or a larger sum, and which by endorsement is reduced to twenty dollars or under, including principal and interest, may be brought before a justice of the peace as aforesaid, and judgment may be entered thereon, and execution awarded in the same manner as though said note had been originally given for a less sum.
Sec. 13. When any person shall be sued in any action before any justice of the peace, he may go with the officer
, who served the writ before the said justice, and there confess judgment for the plaintiff's demand, first giving bail in the action, if bail be required by the terms of the writ; which confession the justice shall record, tax cost as far as it hath accrued, and award execution.
Sec. 14. Justices of the peace are hereby authorized to accept and record the confession of any judgment within their jurisdiction, made by a debtor personally, with the assent of the creditor, with or without antecedent process ; and on such terms in regard to staying execution, as the parties may agree on; and to render judgment and award execution accordingly.
Sec. 15. The justice of the peace who signed the writ in any action shall tax the cost and sign the execution on the judgment thereon; but the trial of the same may be had before him, or, in his absence, before any justice of the same town. After the justice of the peace who has signed any writ shall cease to sustain the office, any other justice of the peace of the same town, on the written application of the plaintiff
, may enter up judgment, or issue a writ of execution or scire facias upon the judgment, with the same effect as the justice who signed the writ. A summons for witnesses may be issued by any justice in the county.
Sec. 16. Any party who shall be aggrieved at any judgment of any justice of the peace rendered in any civil action, may appeal therefrom to the next term of the court of common pleas to be holden in the same county, where the party so aggrieved shall have a hearing of said case, which shall be final; provided he shall, within five days, after rendition of such judgment, pay costs and give bond in said justice's court to the other party, in a sum not exceeding fifty dollars, with sufficient surety or sureties, to prosecute such appeal with effect, or in default to pay costs.
Sec. 17. No execution shall issue on any judgment rendered by any justice of the peace, in less than five days after the day of such judgment: all such executions shall be returnable in three months after the date thereof, and shall be returned to the justice who issued them, if he then retains his office; if not, then to the town clerk.
Sec. 18. All the judgments and proceedings of a justice of the peace shall be by him fairly recorded in a book, to be kept for that purpose only; and every justice of the peace shall, within six months after he shall cease to sustain the office of justice, lodge with the town clerk of the town in which he lives, all his records and official papers, except those which he
may have delivered to some other justice of the peace, in pursuance of the next succeeding section, to be preserved by such town clerk, as appendages to his office; and in case of the decease of any justice of the peace, his executors or administrators shall lodge his records and papers as aforesaid, in the office of such town clerk, within six months after the death of such justice ; and if any justice of the peace, or the
executors or administrators of any justice, shall neglect or refuse to lodge such papers or records as aforesaid, any such person so offending shall forfeit and pay the sum of two dollars a month, for each month he shall so neglect or refuse; to be recovered by an action of debt before any court of competent jurisdiction, one moiety thereof to and for the use of the state, and the other moiety to and for the use of him who shall sue for the same.
Sec. 19. It shall be the duty of any person who may have sustained the office of justice of the peace, at any time before he shall have lodged his records and official papers with the town clerk, to deliver to any justice of the peace of the same town to whom application in writing may have been made to issue
any writ of execution or scire facias in any action originally commenced before him, the original papers in any such action, and it shall be the duty of any town clerk, at any time after the records and official papers of any justice of the peace shall have been lodged in his office in like manner to deliver such original papers. Sec. 20. No attorney's fee shall be allowed and taxed in
. the bill of costs, before any justice's court.
Sec. 21. If any justice of the peace shall sell any blank writ, by him officially signed, or shall deliver to any person any such writ, with permission in the absence of such justice
such writ or to cause the same to be filled and served, he shall forfeit ten dollars ; to be recovered in an action of debt before any justice of the peace in the same town, one moiety thereof to and for the use of the state, and the other moiety to and for the use of him who shall sue for the same; and shall also be ineligible to that office for the term of two years next after such conviction.
Sec. 22. Town sergeants and constables may and shall serve and execute, in any town of the county in which they belong, all writs, summons and other processes to them directed and which by law may or ought to be served and executed, by town sergeants and constables; except in cases where by law it is otherwise specially provided.
Sec. 23. The powers and duties hereby, or by any special act, conferred and imposed on justices of the peace, may and shall be enjoyed and performed by wardens in those towns that are authorized by their original charters to elect wardens.