Adams v. Norris (1859) – Case Brief Summary (U.S. Supreme Court)

Adams v. Norris (1859) 64 U.S. 353, was an action of ejectment for a parcel of land in California. Plaintiffs claimed through the heirs at law of one Grimes; defendants, through the devisees in his will.

The law required three witnesses to the validity of the will.

Two of the witnesses signed in the usual manner, but above their signatures and beneath that of the testator was written "Before me, in the absence of the two alcaldes, Roberto T. Ridley, Sindico."

The sindico was counted among the witnesses, the court saying:

"We comprise among the witnesses to the will, Ridley, the sindico. It does not appear that a sindico was charged with any function in the preparation or execution of testaments by the law or custom of California. Nor is it clear that the sindico in the present instance expected to give any sanction to the instrument by his official character. He attests the execution of the will, and we cannot perceive why the description of himself, which he affixes to his signature, should detract from the efficacy of that attestation."

As it did not appear that the sindico or the two alcaldes were charged with any special duties, it was practically held that the certificate of acknowledgment, and the official character of the sindico, might be disregarded, and the signature treated as an attestation.