Bill: Everything You Need to Know
A bill is a proposed law presented for approval to a legislative body.16 min read
A proposed law presented for approval to a legislative body.
Most legislative proposals before Congress are in the form of bills and are designated by HR in the House of Representatives or S in the Senate, according to the house in which they originate, and by a number assigned in the order in which they are introduced during the two-year period of a congressional term. "Public bills" deal with general questions and become public laws if approved by Congress and signed by the president. "Private bills" deal with individual matters such as claims against the government, immigration and naturalization cases or land titles, and become private laws if approved and signed.
A bill or obligation, (which are the same thing, except that in English it is commonly called bill, but in Latin obligatio, obligation,) is a deed whereby the obligor acknowledges himself to owe unto the obligee a certain sum of money or some other thing, in which, besides the names of the parties, are to be considered the sum or thing due, the time, place, and manner of payment or delivery thereof. It may be indented, or poll, and with or without a penalty.
A complaint in writing addressed to the chancellor, containing the names of the parties to the suit, both complainant and defendant, a statement of the facts on which the complainant relies, and the allegations which he makes, with an averment that the acts complained of are contrary to equity , and a prayer for relief and proper process. Its office in a chancery suit, is the same as a declaration in an action at law, a libel in a court of admiralty or an allegation in, the spiritual courts.
Parts of a Bill
A bill usually consists of nine parts.
- The address, which must be to the chancellor, court or judge acting as such.
- The second part consists of the names of the plaintiffs and their descriptions; but the description of the parties in this part of the bill does not, it seems, constitute a sufficient averment, so as to put that fact in issue.
- The third part is called the premises or stating part of the bill, and contains the plaintiff's case.
- In the fourth place is a general charge of confederacy.
- The fifth part consists of allegations of the defendant's pretences, and charges in evidence of them.
- The sixth part contains the clause of jurisdiction and in averment that the acts complained of are contrary to equity. 7. The seventh part consists of a prayer that the parties answer the premises, which is usually termed the interrogatory part. 8. The prayer for relief sought forms the eighth part. And,
- The ninth part is a prayer for process. The facts contained in the bill, as far as known to the complainant, must, in some cases, be sworn to be true; and such as are not known to him, he must swear he believes to be true; and it must be signed by counsel.
Bills may be divided into three classes, namely:
- Original bills.
- Bills not original.
- Bills in the nature of original bills.
An original bill is one which prays the decree of the court, touching some right claimed by the person exhibiting the bill, in opposition to some right claimed by the person against whom the bill is exhibited. Original bills always relate to some matter not before litigated in the court by the same persons, and standing in the same interests. They may be divided into those which pray relief, and those which do not pray relief.
1st. Original bills praying relief are of three kinds.
1. Bills Praying the decree or order of the court, touching some right claimed by the party exhibiting the bill, in opposition to some right, real or supposed, claimed by the party against whom the bill is exhibited, or touching some wrong done in violation of the plaintiff's right.
2. A bill of interpleader, is one in which the person exhibiting it claims no right in opposition to the rights claimed by the person against whom the bill is exhibited, but prays the decree of the court touching the rights of those persons, for the safety of the person exhibiting the bill. The Practical Register defines it to be a bill exhibited by a third person, who, not knowing to whom he ought of right to render a debt or duty, or pay his rent, fears he may be hurt by some of the claimants, and therefore prays be may interplead, so that the court may judge to whom the thing belongs, and he be thereby safe on the payment.
The interpleader has been compared to the intervention of the civil law. But there is a striking difference between them. The tertius in our interpleader in equity, professes to have no interest in the subject, and calls upon the parties who allege they have, to come forward and discuss their claims: the tertius of the civil law, on the other hand, asserts a right himself in the 'Subject, which two persons are at the time actually contesting, and insists upon his right to join in the discussion. A bill of interpleader may be filed, though the party has not been sued at law, or has been sued by one only of the conflicting claimants, or though the claim of one of the defendants is actionable at law, and the other in equity. The requisites of a bill of this kind are:
- It must admit the want of interest in the plaintiff in the subject matter of dispute;
- The plaintiff must annex an affidavit that there is no collusion between him and either of the parties;
- The bill must contain an offer to bring the money into court, when there is any due; the want of which is a ground of demurrer, unless the money has actually been paid into court;
- The plaintiff should state his own rights, and thereby negative any interest in the thing in controversy; and also should state the several claims of the opposite parties; a neglect on this subject is good cause of demurrer;
- The bill should also show that there are persons in esse capable of interpleading, and setting up opposite claims;
- The bill should pray that the defendants set forth their several titles, and interplead, settle, and adjust their demands between themselves. The bill also generally prays an injunction to restrain the proceedings of the claimants, or either of them, at law; and, in this case, the bill should offer to bring the money into court and the court will not in general act upon this part of the prayer, unless the money be actually brought into court.
3. A bill of certiorari, is one praying the writ of certiorari to remove a cause from an inferior court of equity. The requisites of this bill are that it state,
- the proceedings in the inferior court;
- the incompetency of such court, by suggesting that the cause is out of its jurisdiction; or that the witnesses live out of its jurisdiction; or are not able, by age or infirmity, or the distance of the place, to follow the suit there or that, for some other cause, justice is not likely to be done;
- the bill must pray a writ of certiorari, to certify and remove the record and the cause to the superior court. This bill is seldom used in the United States.
Original Bills Not Praying Relief
Original bills not praying relief are of two kinds.
First, Bills to secure evidence, which are bills to perpetuate the testimony of witnesses or bills to examine witnesses de bene esse. These will be separately considered.
A Bill To Perpetuate The Testimony Of Witnesses, is one which prays leave to examine them, and states that the witnesses are old, infirm, or sick, or going beyond the jurisdiction of the court, whereby the party is in danger of losing the benefit of their testimony. It does not pray for relief.
In order to maintain such a bill, it is requisite to state on its face all the material facts to support the jurisdiction. It must state,
- the subject-matter toucbing which the plaintiff is desirous of giving evidence.
- t must show that the plaintiff has some interest in the subject-matter, which may be endangered if the testimony in support of it be lost; and a mere expectancy, however strong, is not sufficient.
- It must state that the defendant has, or pretends to have, or that he claims an interest to contest the title of the plaintiff in the subject-matter of the proposed testimony.
- It must exhibit some ground of necessity for perpetuating the evidence. The right of which the bill is brought to perpetuate the evidence or testimony, should be described with reasonable certainty in the bill, so as to point the proper interrogations on both sides to the true merits of the controversy. It should pray leave to examine the witnesses touching the matter stated, to the end that their testimony maybe preserved and perpetuated.
A bill to perpetuate testimony differs from a bill to take testimony de bene esse, in this, that the latter is sustainable only when there is a suit already depending, while the former can be maintained only when no present suit can be brought at law by the party seeking the aid of a court to try his right. The canonists had a similar rule. According to the canon law, witnesses could be examined before any action was commenced, for fear that their evidence might be lost.
Bill to Take Testimony De Bene Esse
This bill, the name of which is sufficiently descriptive of its object, is frequently confounded with a bill to perpetuate testimony; but although it bears a close analogy to, it is very different. Bills to perpetuate testimony can be maintained only, when no present suit can be maintained at law by the party seeking the aid of the court to try his right; whereas bills to take testimony de bene esse, are sustainable only in aid of a suit already depending. The latter may be brought by a person who is in possession, or out of possession; and whether he be plaintiff or defendant in the action at law. In many respects the rules which regulate the framing of bills to perpetuate testimony, are applicable to bills to take testimony ae bene esse.
Bill of Discovery
A bill of discovery, emphatically so called, is one which prays for the discovery of facts resting within the knowledge of the person against whom the bill is exhibited, or of deeds, writings, or other things in his custody or power. Every bill, except the bill of certiorari, may in truth, be considered a bill of discovery, for every bill seeks a disclosure of circumstances relative to the plaintiff's case; but that usually and emphatically distinguished by this appellation is a bill for the discovery of facts, resting in the knowledge of the defendant, or of deeds or writings, or other things in his custody or power, and seeking no relief in consequence of the discovery.
This bill is commonly used in aid of the jurisdiction of some other court as to enable the plaintiff Ito prosecute or defend an action at law. "The plaintiff, in this species of bill, must be entitled to the discovery he seeks, and shall only have a discovery of what is necessary for his own title, as of deeds he claims under, and not to pry into that of the defendant.
The action ad exhibendum, in the Roman law, was not unlike a bill of discovery. Its object was to force the party against whom it was instituted, to exhibit a thing or a title in his power. It was always preparatory to another, which was always a real action in the sense of the word in the Roman law.
Bills Not Original
These are either in addition to, or a continuance of an original bill, or both.
1st. Of the first class are,
A supplemental bill. This bill is occasioned by some defect in a suit already instituted, whereby the parties cannot obtain complete justice, to which otherwise the case by their bill would have entitled them. It is used for the purpose of supplying some irregularity discovered in the formation of the original bill, or some of the proceedings there upon; or some defect in a suit, arising from events happening since the points in the original were at issue, which give an interest to persons not parties to the suit. It is proper to consider more minutely
- in what cases such a bill may be filed;
- ts particular requisites.
A supplemental bill may be filed,
- whenever the imperfection in the original bill arises from the omission of some material fact, which existed before the filing of the bill, but the time has passed in which it can be introduced into the bill by amendment, but leave of court must be obtained, before a bill which seeks to change the original structure of the bill, and to introduce a new and different case, can be filed.
- When a party necessary to the proceedings has been omitted, and cannot be admitted by an amendment. When, after the court has decided upon the suit as framed, it appears necessary to bring some other matter before the court to obtain the full effect of the decision; or before a decision has been obtained, but after the parties are at issue upon the points in the original bill, and witnesses have been examined, (in which case, an amendment is not in general permitted,) some other point appears necessary to be made, or some additional discovery is found requisite. When new events or new matters have occurred since the filing of the bill; these events or matters, however, are confined to such as refer to and support the rights and interests already mentioned in the bill.
The supplemental bill must state the original bill, and the proceedings thereon and when it is occasioned by an event which has occurred subsequently to the original bill, it must state that event, and the consequent alteration with regard to the parties. In general, the supplemental bill must pray that all defendants appear and answer the charges it contains.
Bill of Revivor
A bill of revivor, which is a continuance of the original bill, when by death some party to it has become incapable of prosecuting or defending a suit, or a female plaintiff has by marriage incapacitated herself from suing alone.
A Bill Of Revivor And Supplement
This is a compound of a supple-mental bill and bill of revivor, and not only continues the suit, which has abated by the death of the plaintiff, or the like, but supplies any defects in the original bill, arising from subsequent events, so as to entitle the party to relief on the whole merits of his case.
A Cross Bill
Among the second class may be placed, A cross bill. This is one which is brought by a defendant in a suit against the plaintiff, respecting the matter in question in that bill.
A bill of this kind is usually brought to obtain, either a necessary discovery, or full relief to all the parties. It frequently happens, and particularlly if any questions arises between two defendants to a bill, that the court cannot make a complete decree without a cross bill, or cross bills to bring every matter in dispute completely before the court, litigated by the proper parties, and upon proper proofs. In this case it becomes necessary for some one of the defendants to the original bill to file a bill against the plaintiff and other defendants in that bill, or some of them, and bring the litigated point properly before the court.
A cross bill should state the original bill, and the proceedings thereon, and the rights of the party exhibiting the bill which are necessary to be made the subject of a cross litigation, or the grounds on which he resists the claims of the plaintiff in the original bill, if that is the object of the new bill.
A cross bill may be filed to answer the purpose of a plea puis darrein continuance at the common law. For example, where, pending a suit, and after replication and issue joined, the defendant having obtained a release and attempted to prove it viva voce at the bearing, it was determined that the release not being in issue in the cause, the court could not try the facts, or direct a trial at law for that purpose, and that a new bill must be filed to put the release in issue.
A cross bill must be brought before publication is passed on the first bill and not after, except the plaintiff in the cross bill go to the hearing on the depositions already published; because of the danger of perjury and subornation, if the parties should, after publication of the former depositions, examine witnesses, de novo, to the same matter before examined into.
A Bill Of Review
Bills of review are in the nature of writs of error. They are brought to have decrees of the court reviewed, altered, or reversed, and there are two sorts of these bills. The first is brought where the decree has been signed and enrolled and the second, where the decree has not been signed and enrolled. The first of these is called, by way of preeminence, a bill of review; while the other is distinguished by the appellation of a bill in the nature of a bill of review, or a supplemental bill iii the nature of a bill of review.
A bill of review must be either for error in point of law or for some new matter of fact, relevant to the case, discovered since publication passed in the cause; and which could not, with reasonable diligence, have been discovered before.
Bill To Impeach A Decree On The Ground Of Fraud
When a decree has been obtained by fraud, it may be impeached by original bill, without leave of court. As the principal point in issue, is the fraud in obtaining it, it must be established before the propriety of the decree can be investigated, and the fraud must be distinctly stated in the bill. The prayer must necessarily be varied according to the nature of the fraud used, and the extent of its operation in obtaining an improper decision of the court. When the decree to set aside a fraudulent decree has been obtained, the court will restore the parties to their former situation, whatever their rights may be.
Bill To Suspend A Decree
The operation of a decree may be suspended under special circumstances, or avoided by matter subsequent to the decrees upon a new bill for that purpose.
Bill To Carry A Decree Into Execution
This is one which is filed when from the neglect of parties, or some other cause, it may become impossible to carry a decree into execution without the further decree of the court.
Bills Partaking Of The Qualities Of Some One Or More Of Other Bills
First. Bill in the nature of a bill of revivor. A bill in the nature of a bill of revivor, is one which is filed when the death of a party, whose interest is not determined by his death, is attended with such a transmission of his interest, that the title to it, as well as the person entitled, may be litigated in the court of chancery, as in the case of a devise of real estate, the suit is not permitted to be continued by bill of revivor. In such cases an original bill, upon which the title may be litigated, must be filed, and this bill will have so far the effect of a bill of revivor, that if the, title of the representative by the act of the deceased party is established, the same benefit may be had of the proceedings upon the former bill, as if the suit had been continued by bill of revivor.
Secondly. Bill in the nature of a supplemental bill. An original bill in the nature of a supplemental bill, is one filed when the interest of the plaintiff or defendant, suing or defending, wholly determines, and the same property becomes vested in another person not claiming under him. The principal difference between this and a supplemental bill, seems to be, that a supplemental bill is applicable to such cases only, where the same parties or the same interests remain before the court; whereas, an original bill in the nature of a supplemental bill, is properly applicable where new parties, with new interests, arising from events occurring since the institution of the suit, are brought before the court.
Thirdly. Bill In The Nature Of A Bill Of Review. A bill in the nature of a bill of review, is one brought by a person not bound by a decree, praying that the same may be examined and reversed; as where a decree is made against a person who has no interest at all in the matter in dispute, or had not an interest sufficient to render the decree against him binding upon some person claiming after him. Relief may be obtained against error in the decree, by a bill in the nature of a bill of review. This bill in its frame resembles a bill of review, except that instead of praying that the former decree may be reviewed and reversed, it prays that the cause may be heard with respect to the new matter made the subject of the supplemental bill, at the same time that it is reheard upon the original bill; and that the plaintiff may have such relief as the nature of the case made by the supplemental bill may require.
There are also bills which derive their names from the object which the complainant has in view. These will be separately considered.
Bill of Foreclosure
A bill of foreclosure is one filed by a mortgagee against the mortgagor, for the purpose of having the estate, sold, thereby to obtain the sum mortgaged on the premises, with interest and costs. As to the persons who are to be made parties to a bill of foreclosure.
Bill Of Information
A bill of information is a bill instituted in behalf of the state, or those whose rights are the object of its care and protection. It is commenced by information exhibited in the name of the attorney-general, and differs from other bills little more than in name. If the suit immediately concerns the right of the state, the information is generally exhibited without a relator. If it does not immediately concern those rights, it is conducted at the instance and under the immediate direction of, some person whose name is inserted in the information, and is termed the relator; the officers of the state, in such or the like cases, are not further concerned than as they are instructed and advised by those whose rights the state is called upon to protect and establish.
Bill To Marshal Assets
A bill to marshal assets is one filed in favor of simple contract creditors, and of legatees, devisees, and heirs, but not in favor of next of kin, to prevent specialty. creditors from exhausting the personal estate. See Marshaling of Assets.
Bill To Marshal Securities
A bill to marshal securities is one which is filed against a party who has two funds by which his debt is secured, by a person having an interest in only one of those funds. As if A has two mortgages and B has but one, B has a right to throw A upon the security which B cannot touch. This last case contains a luminous exposition in all its bearings. In Pennsylvania, and perhaps in some other states, the object of this bill is reached by subrogation, that is, by substituting the creditor, having but one fund to resort to, to the rights of the other creditor, in respect to the other fund.
Bill For A New Trial
This is a bill filed in a court of equity praying for an injunction after judgment at law, when there is any fact, which renders it against conscience to execute such judgment, and of which the injured party could not avail himself in a court of law-, or, if he could, was prevented by fraud or accident, unmixed with any fault or negligence of himself or his agents. Of late years bills of this description are not countenanced.
Bill Of Peace
A bill of peace is one which is filed when a person has a right which may be controverted by various persons, at different times, and by different actions. In such a case the court will prevent a multiplicity of suits, by directing an issue to determine the right, and ultimately grant an injunction.
There is another class of cases in which a bill of peace is now ordinarily applied; namely, when the plaintiff, after repeated and satisfactory trials, has established his right at law, and is still in danger of new attempts to controvert it. In order to quiet the possession of the plaintiff, and to suppress future litigation, courts of equity, under such circumstances, will interfere, and grant a perpetual injunction.
Bill Quia Timet
A bill quia timet, is one which is filed when a person is entitled to property of a personal nature after another's death, and has reason to apprehend it may be destroyed by the present possessor; or when he is apprehensive of being subjected to a future inconvenience, probable or even possible to happen or be occasioned by the neglect, inadvertance, or culpability of another. Upon a proper case being made out, the court will, in one case, secure the property for the use of the party (which is the object of the bill) by compelling the person in possession of it, to give a proper security against any subsequent disposition or wilful destruction and in the other case, they will quiet the party's apprehension of future inconvenience, by removing the causes which may lead to it.