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court concurred in the opinion that the Governor pus issued by the Supreme Court of Judicature of of the State of Vermont had not the power to de the State of Vermont, George Holmes was dis liver up to a foreign government a person charged charged. The judges of that court were satisfied. with having committed a crime in the territory of on an examination of the opinions delivered by the that government.
justices of the Supreme Court, that by a majority After this case bad been disposed of in the Su of the court It was held that the power clalmed to preme Court of the United States, on a babeus cor deliver up George Holmes did not exist. 600
SUSAN DECATUR, Plaintiff in Error.
Opinion of Mr. Justice Baldwin
(Reported at page 497 of this vol.) I concur with the court in not interfering | diction "must be considered and decided, before with the proceeding of the Circuit Court, re any court can move one farther step in the fusing the mandamus prayed for by the relator, cause; as any movement is necessarily the exon the ground that she is not entitled to the ercise of jurisdiction. It is the power to hear benefits of the general pension la the 3d and determine the subject matter in controMarch 1837, and of the special resolution passed versy between parties to the suit, to adjudion the same day in her favor. My opinion is cate, or to exercise any judicial power over not founded on any special proceedings in the them; the question is whether on a case before passage of the law and resolution, which have a court, their action is judicial, or extrajudicial, been referred to from the journals of two with, or without the authority of law, to render Houses, but from the intention of Congress ap: a judgment *or decree upon the rights of (*600 parent in the provisions of the two acts, not the litigant parties. If the law confers the to give cumulative pensions, and the general power to render a judgment or decree, then the principle of law, that where provision is ex court has jurisdiction; what shall be adjudged pressly made by law for a particular case, it or decreed between the parties, and what is the does not come within the general provisions of right of the case, is judicial action by hearing another law, which may embrace it by its gen- and determining it.” 12 Pet. 718. eral terms. 4 Story, 2542, 2556. Had it been If the court can act on any one subject of the the intention to give both, the presumption is, petition, any matter, "on which the plaintiff it would have been so declared; and the nature asks its interposition, it must be retained; 80 of the pensions, one being for life, and the that the true inquiry is, not as to the extent, other for five years and arrearages, shows the but the existence of any jurisdiction" Ib. 732, intention to be contrary, and to give her the if any case is made out for its exercise (13 Pet. election which she should claim: she has yet 162); if any relief can be given we must prothat election, as it appears from the return to ceed. 8 Pet. 536; 10 Pet. 228. the rule, and the affidavits in the case, that the "Where a court has jurisdiction, it has a receipt of the pension under the general law, right to decide every question which occurs in was, under such circumstances, no waiver of the cause; and whether its decision be correct the pension specially given to her, should she or otherwise, its judgment, until reversed, is now elect to take it, in preference to the gen-binding in every other court. But if it acts eral provision under the contemporary law. without authority, its judgments and orders are
But I cannot concur in opinion with the nullities. They constitute no justification, and court, on the grounds on which they affirm the all persons concerned in executing such judg. judgment, for two reasons. 1. That the Circuit ments or sentences are considered in law as Court had jurisdiction of the case; and 2. That trespassers. 1 Pet. 340; S. P. 2 Pet. 163–169; this court had not jurisdiction: and in order to 3 Pet. 203. ascertain whether the Circuit Court had juris When a court of general civil jurisdiction diction, it is necessary to ascertain what is jur. gives judgment for a debt, or confirms an act isdiction, as contradistinguished from its exer- directed to be done, neither the existence of the cise; for we all agree that if the jurisdiction ex. debt, or validity of the act done can be afterists, there was no error in refusing the man. wards questioned, unless on appeal or writ of damus prayed for.
error: their power to act upon the subject, to “The power to hear and determine a cause judge whether the debt is due or not, is a ques. is jurisdiction; it is coram judice, whenever a tion always open, collaterally; but if they can case is presented which brings this power into act upon it judicially, their errors, however ap. action; if the petitioner states such a case in parent their proceedings, inverso ordine, or con: his petition that, on a demurrer, the court trary to law, have no effect on their jurisdicwould render judgment in his favor, it is an tion or the validity of its exercise, till an apundoubted case of jurisdiction; whether on an pellate power shall reverse them. 10 Pet. 472answer denying and putting in issue the allega. | 476; S. P. 2 Pet. 167, 169. tions of the petition, the petitioner makes out If the judicial function has been exercised by his case, is the exercise of jurisdiction, con lawful authority, the court has jurisdiction; ferred by the filing of a petition, containing otherwise their acts are coram non judice. Ib. all the requisites, and in the manner prescribed 474. by law.” 6 Pet 709. The objection to juris. The judgment of a competent court, "with:
drawn by law from the revision of this,” is a result of these cases clearly is, that the au. sufficient cause to detain a prisoner; we cannot thority to issue the writ of mandamus to ar "look beyond the judgment, and re-examine the officer of the United States, commanding him charges on which it was rendered."
to perform a specific act required by a law of "The judgment of a court of record, whose the United States, is within the scope of the jurisdiction is final, is as conclusive on all the Judicial powers of the United States under the world as the judgment of this court would be. Constitution.” 12 Pet. 618. It is as conclusive on this court as it is on “Congress has the entire control of the disother courts. It puts an end to inquiry contrict for every purpose of government, and it is cerning the fact, by deciding it.” 3 Pet. 202, reasonable to suppose that in organizing a ju. 203; S. P. 7 Wheat. 42–45.
dicial department here, all judicial power nec. The Circuit Court for the District of Colum- essary for the purposes of government would bia is a court of record, having general jurisdic- be vested in the courts of justice. The Circuit tion over criminal cases. An offense cognizable Ccart here is the highest court of original juris. in any court, is cognizable in that court. If the diction; and if the power to issue a mandamus offense be punishable by law, that court is com.in a case like the present exists in any court, petent to inflict the punishment. The judg. it is vested in that court. Ib. 619. ment of such a tribunal has all the obligation “There can be no doubt but that in the State which the judgment of any tribunal can have. of Maryland a writ of mandamus might be is. To determine whether the offense charged in sued to an executive officer, commanding him the indictment be legally punishable or not, is to perform a ministerial act required of him by among the most unquestionable of its powers law; and if it would lie in that State, there can and duties. The decision of the question is the be no good reason why it should not lie in this exercise of jurisdiction, whether the judgment district in analogous cases.” Ib. 621. The be for or against the prisoner. The judgment is court then decide that the Circuit Court of the equally binding in the one case as in the other, district has the power to issue a mandamus, and must remain in full force, unless reversed under the first, third, and fifth sections of the regularly by a superior court capable of re. Act of 27th February, 1801, Ib. 622; and in versing it. If this judgment be obligatory, no applying the law to the case before them, say, court can look behind it. If it be a nullity, "There was no want of jurisdiction, then, as the officer who obeys it is guilty of false im to the person, and as to the subject matter of prisonment. Ib. 203 to 209, passim.
jurisdiction, it extends, according to the lanThese principles draw the line between ju- guage of the act of Congress, to all cases in law risdiction and its exercise so clearly as to su or equity. This of course means cases of ju. persede the necessity of any further inquiry dicial cognizance. That proceedings on an apwhat they are respectively; leaving no open plication to a court of justice for a mandamus question, except their application to this case, are judicial proceedings cannot admit of a which is an application, or motion for a man doubt, and that this is a case in law is equally damus to the Secretary of the Navy, to compel clear." Ib. 623, 624. him to pay to the relator, or to issue his war The court then construe the third section of rant for the pensions claimed by her, under the Act of the 27th February, 1801 (3 Story, the Act and Resolution of Congress of the 3d 2089), "as if the eleventh section of the Act of March, 1837.
13th February, 1801, had been incorporated in. The first proceeding in the Circuit Court was to it,” by which this section declares, "that the on a petition and affidavit in the proper form, circuit courts shall have cognizance of all cases praying for a rule to show cause why a man in law or equity arising under the Constitudamus should not issue; to which a return hav- tion and laws of the United States, and treaing been made it was adjudged to be sufficient, ties made, or which shall be made under their and the motion for the mandamus was refused authority; which are the very words of the to be granted. Did, then, the petition, affidavit, Constitution, and which is of course a delegaetc., present a case for the exercise of the ju. tion of the whole judicial power, in cases aris601") dicial power of the Circuit *Court, oring under the Constitution, laws, etc.; whicb was it a matter coram non judice, is the ques. meets and supplies the precise want of delega. tion; for if they could inquire into it as judges, tion of power, which prevented the exercise of they had power to grant the rule, however er- jurisdiction, in the case of M'Intire v. Wood roneously, illegally, or even oppressively, they and M'Cluny v. Silliman; and must, on the might act in doing it. In that stage of the principles which governed the decision of the cause, the proceeding was on the case as made court in those cases, be sufficient to vest the out by the relator, which might justify the power in the Circuit Court of this district.” 12 rule; though on the return of the respondent Pet. 626. Its judgment, awarding a peremptory there might be conclusive reasons for proceed. mandamus against the Postmaster-General, ing no farther; but as the question of juris. was accordingly affirmed. Vide 8 Wheat. 600. diction is on the first step, all questions which As the authority of that case has been recog: follow it are matters of discretion in its exer- nized in the opinion of the court delivered in cise, so that the only inquiry is, whether the this, it must be considered as settled that the case is “of judicial cognizance.” 12 Pet. 623. Circuit Court of this district, having the cog.
In ascertaining the jurisdiction of the Circuit nizance of all cases in law or equity, and being Court of this district, I shall confine myself to a court of general jurisdiction, is invested with the opinion of this court, in The United States the whole judicial power of the Constitution v. Kendall, in which it was decided that the in relation to writs of mandamus; which is
was proper for a mandamus, and that jurisdiction, if judicial cognizance of the per. that court had power to issue it. After a re- son, the subject matter, and the power to hear view of former decisions, they proceed: “The land determine, is jurisdiction; "and of (*602
cunsequence, that court has a right to decide damus to the head of one executive departevery question which arises in the cause, when ment has been affirmed as an act within the their first step is judicial, under the authority jurisdiction of the court, and is a case proper of law. 1 Pet. 340.
for its exercise; because the thing command. It is admitted that if the law had required ed to be done was ministerial in its nature. 12 the Secretary of the Navy to do a ministerial Pet. 618, 626. act, the jurisdiction of that court would be un- A decision of the same court, refusing & questionable; not only to grant the rule to mandamus to another head of an executive deshow cause to issue the mandamus, but enforce partment, has also been affirmed, on the ground it by ultimate process, if no sufficient cause is that that court had no jurisdiction of the case, shown to the contrary in the return: which ap- because the act which that officer was called on pears to me to be also an admission that that to perform was of an executive, discretionary court may and must judicially inquire whether nature, and consequently not ministerial; from the act enjoined by law and refused to be per. which no other conclusions can result than formed, is ministerial, executive, or discretion. these: ary, in its nature. It is of the essence of the First. That the court, which has exclusive, jurisdiction of any and every court of record, original jurisdiction, to award a mandamus to which is authorized to decide on any class of a head of a department, in any case, the only cases, to inquire whether in the one before court in whom this power is invested, has them it is of that class; whether it is proper neither jurisdiction or power to inquire judi. for the exercise of their power; and how it cially whether *the act which is the 1*603 shall be exercised: otherwise its action is abor- subject of the application for a mandamus, is tive, and its proceeding by the most solemn of that nature as to justify the awarding of consideration is a nullity, if their jurisdiction is this writ, and of consequence, cannot decide to be tested by the judgment which they shall whether it shall issue or not, for if it can so render.
inquire and decide, that is necessarily the exerIf a decision in this case, that a mandamus cise of jurisdiction. shall not issue, is not a nullity, a contrary one Second. That the only court which has any cannot be; for such a decision is the result of original jurisdiction over the person and subject a judicial inquiry, which the law authorizes to matter, to which the application for the man. be made, whether the rule shall be granted, and damus applies, is incompetent to hear and dethe proceedings be followed up to consumma termine it on its merits, if this court, in its tion or not: the law authorizes this inquiry in exercise of appellate power on a writ of error, to the facts of the case, and the judgment of shall be of opinion that the Circuit Court ought the court puts an end to the “inquiry concern- not to award the mandamus in the case before ing the fact, by deciding it.” To determine them, on the sole ground that the act com. whether the facts of the case are legally suf plained of was not ministerial, and that thereficient to award the process of the court, “is fore the subject matter was coram non judice, among the most unquestionable of its powers in that court. and duties." 3 Pet. 203. The decision of these Third. Whence it follows that this court, in questions is the exercise of jurisaiction, what. virtue of its appellate jurisdiction can alone ever judgment may be given; and if the prin exercise the judicial power of the United ciples laid down in the case of Kendall are law States, to hear and determine a case on a manin this, the result is irresistible that the court | damus, which turns on the question whether the which can decide the facts and law, on which act sought to be commanded to be done, was the granting or refusing a mandamus depends, of a ministerial nature, a proper subject for the has jurisdiction to hear, determine, and render writ, or of an executive, or discretionary char. a judgment on the application; which is con- acter, which made it improper to issue it. In clusive till reversed.
other words, that the award of a mandamus, in When this court has most solemnly adjudged a case where its award would be erroneous, that the authority to issue a mandamus "is was an usurpation of the judicial function, a within the scope of the judicial power of the nullity, had it been made in this case; which United States, under the Constitution;" that if conclusions can, in my opinion, be drawn only it exists in any court it is vested in the Circuit by overlooking the settled distinction between Court of this district, and that the power in jurisdiction and its erroneous exercise. that court to exercise this jurisdiction “results Though it matters not for the purposes of irresistibly" from the Act of 1801, I am wholly this case on what ground the judgment below unable to reconcile the conclusion formed in is affirmed, a view of the consequences which this case with the principles and premises es- must result from a denial of jurisdiction under tablished in that; or to view the two cases in the opinion of this court must lead to the most connection on this point, without the convic- serious considerations; for the want of original tion that they are entirely repugnant, as well jurisdiction leaves a judgment rendered in a in principle as in their consequences.
case coram non judice, as utterly null and void, It is the settled law of this court that it can. when objected to in a collateral action, as it is not issue a mandamus to a public officer, in after a reversal on error. Nay more so, where virtue of its original jurisdiction (1 Cranch, the nullity arises from an intrinsic want of 174, etc.; 12 Pet. 621); that this Circuit Court, power, it requires not the action of an appel. by its original, general jurisdiction, has been late court to authorize all the world to disre. invested with this power; that it exists in no gard it, to oppose, even by force, the officer other court; is within the scope of the judicial who attempts to execute any order or judgmert power of the United States; and, consequently, which the court may make or render, and exclusively within the judicial cognizance of makes him liable to an action or indictment, if that court. An award of a peremptory man. I he actually executes it.
Now, let it be supposed that in enforcing a | that court was competent to decide." 3 Peta proceeding by mandamus, the marshal or the 206. So, on a motion for a mandamus, the defendant is maimed; an indictment is found; question is whether on the petition and affiit must be tried in the Circuit Court of this davits on the part of the relator, a rule should district; they decide that they had jurisdiction be granted to show cause, or the writ be in the mandainus, and power to issue the at. awarded or refused. tachment; that the marshal had lawful au "The cases are numerous which decide that thority to execute it by force, if resisted, con- the judgments of courts of record having genvict, sentence, and imprison the defendant; the eral jurisdiction of the subject, although erronehands of this court are paralyzed by its own ous, are binding, until reversed.” “This asdecisions.
knowledged principle seems to us to settle the The sentence of the Circuit Court is final, question now before the court. The judgment absolute, and conclusive of the facts, as well as of the Circuit Court in a criminal case, is of the law; it is withdrawn from any revision by itself evidence of its own legality, and requires this court, by habeas corpus, 7 Wheat. 42; 2 for its support no inspection of the indictments Pet. 202, 209, by writ of error (3 Cranch, 170- on which it is founded. The law trusts that 172, 174), or mandamus, 3 Dall. 42; 13 Pet. 290, court with the whole subject, and has not con408; the judgment "is as conclusive on all the fided to this court the power of revising its world as the judgment of this court would be, decisions. We cannot usurp that power by as conclusive on this court as on other courts” the instrumentality of the writ of habeas cor(2 Pet. 203); though this court should be of pus. The judgment informs us that the com. opinion that in law the marshal ought to have mitment is legal, and with that information been convicted. Ib. 209.
it is our duty to be satisfied." Ib. 207. “With"An imprisonment under a judgment cannot out looking into the indictments, etc., we are be unlawful, unless that judgment be an abso- unanimously of opinion that the judgment of a lute nullity; and it is not a nullity if the court court of general criminal jurisdiction justifies has general jurisdiction of the subject, al- this imprisonment,” etc. (though as this court though it should be erroneous. Ib. Let this has declared, “that court has misconstrued the principle be applied to a mandamus, according law, and has pronounced an offense to be punto the opinion in Kendall's case; it will be ishable criminally, which, as we may think, is manifest that the Circuit Court, having orig not so”), and "that the writ of habeas corpus inal, exclusive, and general jurisdiction in this ought not be awarded.” Ib. 209. These accase, had, if that case remains authoritative, knowledged principles must apply to the judg. full authority to exercise it, by any order, judgment or order of the former court on a manment, or process, which they deemed to be damus, as it has the same original, general, and called for, in the exercise of their discretion, on exclusive jurisdiction in those cases as it has the exigencies of the cause. It does not come on criminal offenses; the judgment is of course within any power of this court, by looking to equally evidence of its own legality, and con. consequences, to remove any restrictions on its clusive till reversed; the only difference beappellate jurisdiction, or to exercise it where it tween the two classes of cases is dependent on is not clearly given; it may decide on the er the question whether this court has power to rors of inferior courts, in assuming or exer- revise a judgment on a mandamus, either by a cising their power; but if it is admitted that writ of habeas corpus or a writ of error. they have jurisdiction over the person and sub On the application for a habeas corpus, this 604*) ject matter, and *power to issue the court must see that there is a judgment of a process in question, the power of this court is court having acknowledged power to act in the restricted to a revision of the exercise of those case; all inquiry thus ceases, as this court canpowers." "Whether such a restriction be not not look beyond the judgment; if they inspect inconsistent with sound, public policy, and does the petition, etc., to ascertain whether the case not materially impair the rights of other par- presented is one proper for the exercise of orig. ties, as well as of the United States, is an in- inal jurisdiction, they usurp it by placing them. quiry deserving of the most serious attention selves in the seat of the Circuit Court, in exer. of the Legislature. We have nothing to do butcising the precise function which has been deleto expound the law as we find it; the defects gated to that court, in the plenitude of judicial of the system must be remedied by another de- power. On the same ground this court might partment of the government.” 3 Wheat. 300. revise the judgment of a circuit court held in a “We are entirely satisfied to administer the law State, on an action, or indictment, by habeas as we find it."
corpus, and discharge the defendant from im. “The argument of inconvenience has bera prisonment: not because the court below had pressed upon us with great earnestness. But not power to hear, determine, or render a judg. where the law is clear, this argument is of no ment; but because on the case as it appeared avail; and it will probably be found that there by looking beyond the judgment, it ought to are also serious inconveniences on the other have been for the defendant. Such power has side. Wherever power is lodged, it may be never been asserted or exercised in relation to abused. But this forms no solid objection to any circuit court; it has been solemnly denied as its exercise. Confidence must be reposed some to the court of this district, *which has [*605 where; and if it should be abused, it will be a "larger powers, in cases of mandamus, than public grievance, for which a remedy may be any other court." 12 Pet. 615, 626. If a applied by the Legislature, and is not to be de- writ of habeas corpus does not lie on its judg. vised by courts of justice.” 7 Wheat. 45. ments in criminal, and other civil cases, it can
“The question whether an offense was or not lie on a judgment in a case of mandamus; was not committed, that is, whether the in- if the party cannot be discharged on habeas dictment did or did not show that an offense corpus, it is decisive of jurisdiction, and shows had been committed, was a question which most clearly that the only questions which can