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December Archives treasure #1: First Territorial Supreme Court case

by Brian Zylstra | December 19th, 2012


Going back, back, back to our territorial days, Washington’s Supreme Court has heard hundreds of cases. So what was the first case ever heard by the Washington territorial high court?

It was George Palmer v. United States, filed Dec. 14, 1854.

The case involved the conviction of Palmer, who was charged with “selling and giving spirituous liquor to an Indian.”  He was sentenced to pay a fine of $500 to the feds and spend three months in the County Jail. Due to a number of errors committed by the District Court, the judgment was reversed and  Palmer was released.

This case is the first Archives treasure for December. Palmer is one of 634 case files for the Territorial Supreme Court (1854-1889) that our State Archives preserves.

We’re talking 32 cubic feet for all cases appearing before the Territorial Supreme Court, including briefs, depositions, cost and fee documents, and other filings.  All told, the State Archives has more than 4,100 cubic feet of records that document the opinions and decisions of every case decided by the territory and later the state’s highest court.

Go here to learn more about the Washington Supreme Court.

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