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RIGGINS v. UNITED STATES

December 11, 1905

RIGGINS
v.
UNITED STATES



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day

Author: Fuller

[ 199 U.S. Page 548]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

It is settled that the writ of habeas corpus will not issue unless the court under whose warrant petitioner is held is without jurisdiction, and that it cannot be used merely to correct errors. Ordinarily the writ will not be granted when there is a remedy

[ 199 U.S. Page 549]

     by writ of error or appeal, yet in rare and exceptional cases it may be issued, although such remedy exists.

In New York v. Eno, 155 U.S. 89, it was held that Congress intended to invest the courts of the Union and the justices and judges thereof with power upon writ of habeas corpus to restore to liberty any person within their respective jurisdictions held in custody, by whatever authority, in violation of the Constitution or any law or treaty of the United States; that the statute contemplated that cases might arise when the power thus conferred should be exercised during the progress of proceedings instituted in a state court against the petitioner on account of the very matter presented for determination by the writ of habeas corpus ; but that the statute did not imperatively require the Circuit Court by that writ to wrest the petitioner from the custody of the state officers in advance of his trial in the state court; and that while the Circuit Court had the power to do so, and could discharge the accused in advance of his trial, if restrained in violation of the Constitution, it was not bound in every case to exercise such power immediately upon application being made for the writ. The conclusion was that in a proper exercise of discretion the Circuit Court should not discharge the petitioner until the state court had finally acted upon the case, when it could be determined whether the accused, if convicted, should be put to his writ of error or the question determined on habeas corpus whether he was restrained of his liberty in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

These principles were fully discussed in the cases of the appeals of Royall from judgments in habeas corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Virginia. 117 U.S. 241. And in addition Royall made an original application to this court for a writ of habeas corpus, which was denied upon the grounds stated in the previous cases. 117 U.S. 254.

While special reasons may exist why this should be the rule in respect of proceedings in state courts, which are not applicable

[ 199 U.S. Page 550]

     to cases in the courts of the United States, nevertheless we have frequently applied the same principle to such cases. In re Chapman, 156 U.S. 211; In re Lancaster, 137 U.S. 393; In re Huntington, 137 U.S. 63; Ex parte Mirzan, 119 U.S. 584.

In Chapman's case we held that it was a judicious and salutary general rule not to interfere with proceedings pending in the courts of the District of Columbia or in the Circuit Courts of the United States in advance of their final determination. And we said:

"We are impressed with the conviction that the orderly administration of justice will be better subserved by our declining to exercise appellate jurisdiction in the mode desired until the conclusion of the proceedings. If judgment goes against petitioner and is affirmed by the Court of Appeals and a writ of error lies, that is the proper and better remedy for any cause of complaint he may have. If, on the other hand, a writ of error does not lie to this court, and the Supreme Court of the District was absolutely without jurisdiction, the petitioner may then seek his remedy through application for a writ of habeas corpus. We ...


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