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Around Town: The state Supreme Court and La Cañada

June 27, 2013

To understand how Catherine Banbury sought to enforce an $11,610.58 judgment against La Cañada real estate owned by Delos Arnold, a former Iowa state senator (“The mystery of Delos Arnold,” Around Town, June 20), we headed to the Los Angeles County Law Library in downtown Los Angeles.

Our goal was to ask the reference librarian for the original appellate briefs in the 1891 California Supreme Court case of Banbury v. Arnold.

Founded in 1891, the Los Angeles County Law Library has nearly one million books and documents. If anyone still had the appellate briefs in this 1891 case, it would have to be the Law Library.

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We needed the original briefs because the California Supreme Court opinion, available online, did not include a legal description of the property.

Did the case concern La Cañada? There was no way to know without the legal description of the land.

The reference librarian was helpful and prompt. Within minutes, she returned from the stacks with a large bound volume.

“Here it is,” she said cheerfully.

The dusty pages from 1891 contained the transcript of the trial between Catherine Banbury and Delos Arnold. The book also had appellate briefs. There were two briefs for Arnold and one brief for Banbury.

The briefs were amazingly short. Arnold's opening brief was six pages long. Banbury's response was 10 pages.

But neither brief described the location of the property.

I turned to the transcript. Unlike the lengthy transcripts of today, this 122-year-old document consisted of a copy of the complaint and a two-page summary by the trial judge.

Bingo! The transcript included the following description of the real property:

“All that portion of lot fourteen (14) of the Rancho La Canyada now owned by the said party of the first part, and bounded on the north by the public highway known as Michigan avenue, on the east by the lands of William Banning, on the south by line of said rancho and on the west by the land of Mary C. Ball, formerly Mary C. Williams, and containing forty-five and two-fifths acres of land...”

The property was in La Cañada. Perhaps Banbury v. Arnold was La Cañada’s first California Supreme Court case.

The facts were as follows. Banbury and Arnold signed a land sale contract. Banbury was the seller. Arnold was to pay $5,000 by May 6, 1888 and another $5,000 in 1889. In exchange, Banbury would transfer the property to Arnold.

Arnold wanted out. He paid $1,800, not a penny more.

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