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Dixon v. City of Reno

December 31, 1919

J. B. DIXON, APPELLANT, V. CITY OF RENO, GEORGE C. BRYSON, AND JOHN D. HILLHOUSE, RESPONDENTS.


Appeal from Second Judicial District Court, Washoe County; George A. Bartlett, Judge.

J. M. Frame, for Appellant.

W. D. Jones, for Respondents.

By the Court, Sanders, J.:

This is an action to recover damages for false imprisonment. To the original complaint a separate demurrer was filed by each of the defendants, and after argument said demurrers were sustained. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint, wherein it was attempted to state two causes of action, to which general demurrers were filed by each of the defendants and sustained by the court. Thereupon judgment was entered in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff. Plaintiff appeals.

1. The first cause of action of the amended complaint

[43 Nev. 413, Page 416]

alleges that the defendant city of Reno caused plaintiff to be arrested on a warrant issued by the defendant Bryson, judge of the municipal court of said city, upon a complaint sworn to by its assistant city clerk; that thereafter he was brought to trial upon said complaint, over his objection to the jurisdiction of such court to hear and determine the matter complained of; that the defendant Bryson wrongfully and unlawfully pretended to assume jurisdiction, and heard and received certain evidence upon such trial and adjudged plaintiff guilty of a misdemeanor, and that he be fined in the sum of $25, and in default of the payment thereof that he be imprisoned for the term of twenty-five days, and that the said Bryson did thereupon issue and deliver to the defendant Hillhouse a warrant of commitment without having jurisdiction or power so to do; that thereafter the defendant Hillhouse did unlawfully and wrongfully arrest and imprison plaintiff and deprive him of his liberty; that at all such times the said Hillhouse was chief of police of said city of Reno; and that prior to and at the time of such arrest and imprisonment he had notice and knowledge that plaintiff had objected to the jurisdiction of said municipal court and of the defendant Bryson.

It is further alleged that the complaint upon which plaintiff was arrested and tried charged the breach of an ordinance of the city of Reno; that prior to the trial plaintiff filed with said Bryson a motion to set aside the complaint upon which he had been arrested, and afterwards filed a demurrer thereto, in which the validity of said ordinance was raised and the jurisdiction of said court and Bryson to try said plaintiff on said complaint was questioned.

Other matters are alleged for the evident purpose of forming the basis for punitive damages. The allegation of the said first cause of action of the amended complaint, wherein it is sought to charge the lack of jurisdiction of the municipal court of Reno, and the

[43 Nev. 413, Page 417]

defendant Bryson, as the magistrate thereof, is as follows:

“Plaintiff avers that said court and said defendant Bryson had no jurisdiction or power to try plaintiff on said complaint or charge, and had no jurisdiction or power to adjudge plaintiff guilty or to impose upon him any fine or penalty or imprisonment or to issue any warrant of commitment of plaintiff; but that in the action he took as aforesaid, he was merely a private individual.”

2. The so-called first cause of action does not state a cause of action, for the reason that it fails to allege facts showing wherein the municipal court was without jurisdiction. The mere allegation that the said court and Bryson “had no jurisdiction or power” is not a statement of facts, but merely a statement of a conclusion of the pleader. The plaintiff having stated that he was arrested and proceeded against upon a warrant issued upon a complaint filed with a duly constituted magistrate, it was incumbent upon him to plead facts showing the lack of jurisdiction of such magistrate to entertain such proceedings, and, failing to do so, the so-called first cause of action of the amended complaint is not good. This question was determined by the Supreme Court of California in Going v. Dinwiddie, 86 Cal. 633, 25 Pac. 129, the court saying:

“It is clear that the acts complained of were done by the defendant in his official capacity as a judicial officer, and there is no averment, in terms, that said acts were without or in excess of his jurisdiction, nor are any facts averred from which such want of jurisdiction appears. And that a judicial officer is not liable for acts done in his official capacity and within his jurisdiction is as thoroughly established as any other principle of law. One of the best expositons of that principle is found in the opinion of Shaw, C. ...


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