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Power of Courts to issue Writs of Habeas Corpus.

Sec. 751. The Supreme Court and the Circuit and District Courts shall have power to issue writs of habeas corpus.

24 Sept., 1789, c. 20, s. 14, v. 1, p. 81. 2 March, 1833, c. 57, s. 7, v. 4,


634. 29 Aug., 1812, c. 257, s. 1, 5,


5:39. 5 Feb., 1867, c. 28, s. 1, v. 14, p. 385. 10 April, 1869, c. 22, s. 2, v. 16, p. 44.


1. (Feb., 1806.) A prisoner confined in the jail of the county of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia, petitioned this court for a habeas corpus.

The case of the United States v. Hamilton (3 Dall. 17) is decisive. It was there determined that this court could grant a habeas corpus: therefore, let the writ issue returnable immediately, together with a certiorari as prayed. Ex parte Burford, 3 Cranch, 417, 418.

2. (Feb., 1807.) This court has power to issue the writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum. Er parte Bollman, 4 Cranch, 75.

3. (Feb., 1810.) The writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum does not lie to bring up a person confined in the prison bounds upon a ca. sa. issued in a civil suit. Ex parte Wilson, 6 Cranch, 52.

4. (Feb., 1822.) This court has authority to issue a habeas corpus where a person is imprisoned under the warrant or order of any other court of the United States. Kearney, 7 Wheat. 38.

5. The court will not grant a habeas corpus where a party has been committed for a contempt adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction. 16. 38, 39.

6. In such a case this court will not inquire into the sufficiency of the cause of commitment. 16.

Ex parte


7. The case of Crosby, Lord Mayor of London (3 Wils. 183), commented on, and its authority confirmed. Ib.

8. (Jan., 1830.) A petition was presented by Tobias Watkins, for a habeas corpus, for the purpose of inquiring into the legality of his confinement in the jail of the county of Washington, by virtue of a judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States of the District of Columbia, rendered in a criminal prosecution instituted against him in that court. The petitioner alleged that the indictments under which he was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment charge no offence for which the prisoner was punishable in that court, or of which that court could take cognizance, and, consequently, that the proceedings were coram non judice. Ex parte Watkins, 3 Pet. 193.

9. The Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in criminal cases which could reverse or affirm a judgment rendered in the Circuit Court in such a case, where the record is brought up directly by writ of error. Ib.

10. The power of this court to award writs of habeas corpus is conferred expressly on this court by the fourteenth section of the Judicial Act, and has been repeatedly exercised. No doubt exists respecting the power. 16.

. 11. No law of the United States prescribes the cases in which this great writ shall be issued, nor the power of the court over the party brought up by it. The term used in the Constitution is one which is well understood, anıt the judicial act authorizes the court, and all the courts of the United States, and the judges thereof, to issue the writ" for the purpose of inquiring into the cause of commitment." 16.

12. The nature and powers of the writ of hubeas cor

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pus. 16.

13. The cases of the United States v. Hamilton (3 Dall. Rep. 17), Ex parte Burford (3 Cranch's Rep. 447), Ex parte Bollman and Swartwout (4 Cranch, 75), and Ex parte Kearney (7 Wheat. 39), examined. 18.

14. It is universally understood that the judgments of the courts of the United States, although their jurisdiction be not shown on the pleadings, are yet binding on all the world, and that this apparent want of jurisdiction can avail the party only on a writ of error. The judgment of the Circuit Court in a criminal case is of itself evidence of its own legality, and requires for its support no inspection of the indictment on which it is founded. The law trusts that court with the whole subject, and has not confided to this court the power of revising its decisions. This court cannot usurp that power by the instrumentality of a writ of habeas corpus. The judgment informs us that the commitment is legal, and with that information it is our duty to be satisfied. Ib.

15. A judgment, in its nature, concludes the subject on which it is rendered, and pronounces the law of the case. The judgment of a court of record whose jurisdiction is final, is as conclusive on all the world as the judgment of this court would be. It is as conclusive on this court as on other courts. It puts an end to inquiry concerning the fact by deciding it. 16.

16. With what propriety can this court look into an indictment found in the Circuit Court, and which has passed into judgment before that court? We have no power to examine the proceedings on a writ of error, and it would be strange if, under color of a writ to liberate an individual from an unlawful imprisonment, the court could substantially reverse a judgment which the law has placed beyond its control. An imprisonment under a judgment cannot be unlawful, unless that judgment be an absolute nullity; and it is not a nullity if the court has general jw'isdiction of the subject, although it should be erroneous. 16.

17. (Jan., 1835.) Habeas corpus. As the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is appellate, it must be shown to the court that the court has the power to award a habeas corpus, before one will be granted. Ex parte Milburn, 9 Pet. 704.

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18. (Jan., 1844.) The original jurisdiction of this court does not extend to the case of a petition by a private individual for a habeas corpus to bring up the body of his infant daughter, alleged to be unlawfully detained from him. Ex parte Barry, 2 How. 65.

19. (Jan., 1845.) Neither the Supreme Court, nor any other court of the United States, or judge thereof, can issue a habeas corpus to bring up a prisoner, who is in custody under a sentence or execution of a state court, for any pose than to be used as a witness. Ex parte Dorr, 3 How. 103.

20. (Jan., 1847.) This court has no appellate power in a case where the Circuit Court refused to grant a writ of habeas corpus prayed for by a father to take his infant child out of the custody of its mother. Barry v. Mercein et al., 5 How. 103.1

21. (Jan., 1817.) The treaty with France, made in 1843, provides for the mutual surrender of fugitives from justice, in certain cases.

Where a district judge, at his chambers, decided that there was sufficient cause for the surrender of a person claimed by the French government, and committed him to custody to await the order of the President of the United States, this court has no jurisdiction to issue a habeas corpus for the purpose of reviewing that decision. Matter of Metzger, 5 How. 176.

22. (Dec., 1852.) Under the tenth article of the treaty of 1842, between the United States and Great Britain, a warrant was issued by a commissioner, at the instance of the British consul, for the apprehension of a person who, it was alleged, had committed an assault, with intent to murder, in Ireland.

The person being arrested, the commissioner ordered him

I Sec “Matter in Dispute.”

to be committed, for the purpose of abiding the order of the President of the United States.

A habeas corpus was then issued by the Circuit Court of the United States, the district judge presiding, when, after a hearing, the writ was dismissed, and the prisoner remanded to custody.

A petition was then presented to the circuit judge, at his chambers, addressed to the justices of the Supreme Court, and praying for a writ of habeas corpus, which was referred by the circuit judge, after a hearing, to the justices of the Supreme Court, in bank, at the commencement of the next term thereof.

At the meeting of the court a motion was made, with the papers and proceedings presented to the circuit judge, annexed to the petition, for writs of habeas corpus and certiorari, to bring up the defendant and the record from the Circuit Court, for the purpose of having the decision of that court examined.

The motion was refused, the writs prayed for denied, and the petition dismissed. In re Kaine, 14 How. 103.

23. (Dec., 1866.) When the Circuit Court renders a final judgment, refusing to discharge the prisoner, he may bring the case here by writ of error; and if the judges of the Circuit Court, being opposed in opinion, can render no judgment, he may have the point upon which the disagreement happens certified to this tribunal. Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wall. 3.

24. (Dec., 1867.) Under the act of Feb. 5, 1867 (14 Stat. at Large, 385), to amend the Juiciary Act of 1789, an appeal lies to this court, on judgments in habeas corpus cases, rendered by Circuit Courts in the exercise of original jurisdiction. Er parte McCardle, 6 Wall. 318.

25. (Dec., 1868.) The act of 27th March, 1868, repealing

1 Upon a writ of habeas corpus.

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