Thursday, November 5, 2009

Habeas Corpus (4)

In the United States the power of the Federal courts is purely statutory in origin. The original statute creating this power in them was the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789, sec. 14 (1 Stat., L. 81), which provided "that writs of habeas corpus shall in no case extend to prisoners in gaol, unless they are in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States, or are committed for trial before some court of the same, or are necessary to be brought into court to testify." The jurisdiction created by this act, it is now settled, is exclusive in the Federal court. Subsequent statutes have extended this jurisdiction to cases where the prisoner is in custody for an act done or omitted, in pursuance of a law or process of the United States (Rev. Stat., sec. 753), this being the general effect of the act of March 2, 1833 (4 Stat. at L., 634), commonly called the Force Bill; to cases where the prisoner is held in violation of the Constitution, or a statute, or treaty of the United States, whether in a State or Federal court (Rev. Stat., sec. 753); "to all cases of any prisoner in jail or confinement who are subjects of a foreign State, and domiciled therein, who are confined or in custody under or by any authority or law, or process founded thereon, of the United States, or of any of them, for or on account of any act done or omitted under any alleged right, title, or authority, privilege, protection, or exemption set up or claimed under the commission or order or sanction of any foreign State or sovereignty, the validity and effect whereof depends upon the law of nations, or under color thereof" (act of August 29, 1842, 5 Stat. at L., 539; Rev. Stat., sec. 753).

The provisions do not grant to the Federal courts the authority by habeas corpus to discharge a prisoner from the custody of the State courts or officers where the prisoner is within the jurisdiction of the State authority by which he is imprisoned, merely because rights are involved which arise under the laws of the United States, since where there is a proper jurisdiction the State courts are equally bound with those of the Federal Government, and are equally supposed, to support and give effect to the Federal laws, and any erroneous rulling in this respect would involve an error of law, which could be remedied by a proper appeal to the Federal courts. But where the denial of right by the State court involves not only an error of law, but such a refusal as places the court in a position of acting without jurisdiction, as in acting under an unconstitutional State law, a basis is laid for the remedy of a habeas corpus from the Federal court. This power of the Federal courts to grant the writ under the special grounds mentioned above is discretionary, and the writ is frequently refused in cases where the granting of it would tend to subvert the ordinary course of justice in the State courts.

To be continued: Habeas Corpus (5)

Transcribed from The New International Encyclopedia: 1902-1905 Dodd, Mead and Company New York. Total of 21 Volumes.

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