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People ex rel. Willett v. Quinn

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

May 17, 1912

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK ex rel. WILLIAM WILLETT, JR., Appellant,
v.
THOMAS M. QUINN, as Sheriff of Queens County, Respondent. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK ex rel. JOSEPH CASSIDY, Appellant,
v.
THOMAS M. QUINN, as Sheriff of Queens County, Respondent. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK ex rel. LOUIS T. WALTER, JR., Appellant,
v.
THOMAS M. QUINN, as Sheriff of Queens County, Respondent.

Page 814

SEPARATE APPEALS by the relators in the above-entitled actions, William Willett, Jr., Joseph Cassidy and Louis T. Walter, Jr., from respective orders of the Supreme Court, made at the Queens County Special Term and entered in the office of the clerk of the county of Queens in the first action on the 29th day of December, 1911, and in the second and third actions on the 20th day of December, 1911, dismissing writs of habeas corpus.

COUNSEL

Mirabeau L. Towns [William Willett, Jr., with him on the brief], for the appellants.

Fred G. De Witt [Matthew J. Smith with him on the brief], for the respondent.

BURR, J.:

On November 21, 1911, Mr. Justice SCUDDER, sitting as a committing magistrate, issued his warrant for the arrest of William Willett, Jr., upon a criminal charge of fraudulently and wrongfully committing certain acts therein specified, tending to affect the result of the judicial convention held in and for the Second Judicial Department on the 6th day of October, 1911. On the same day warrants were also issued for the arrest of Joseph Cassidy and Louis T. Walter, Jr., upon similar charges. Prior thereto, and on various dates between November 2, 1911, and the date of issuing said warrants, various persons had appeared before Mr. Justice SCUDDER, either voluntarily or in response to the requirements of a subpoena signed by him, and had been examined, their testimony had been reduced to writing and signed, the depositions had then been sworn to before him and filed with him. On November 27, 1911, the relators voluntarily appeared before said magistrate, waived

Page 815

the reading of the depositions taken before him prior to the issuing of the warrants, and demanded an examination. On December 5, 1911, the date fixed by consent for such examination, they again appeared in person or by counsel, and thereupon stipulated that the depositions of the several persons which had been taken prior to the issuing of said warrants stand as their testimony with the same force and effect as if such witnesses had been sworn and had thus testified upon such examination. Counsel for the accused then cross-examined three of the persons who had been previously examined and had made depositions, and stated that he did not desire that either of the other persons whose depositions had been taken should be produced for examination. Thereupon each of the accused made a statement to the magistrate, as permitted by section 196 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The proceedings were thereupon adjourned by consent to December 11, 1911, upon which date the magistrate decided that a crime had been committed, and that there was sufficient cause to believe that the accused were guilty thereof, and thereupon issued to the sheriff of Queens county a commitment directing him to receive and retain in his custody the said William Willett, Jr., to answer to the grand jury of Queens county upon a charge of 'fraudulently and wrongfully offering, tendering and paying a cash consideration to one Louis T. Walter, Jr., for the purpose of affecting the Democratic Judicial Convention of the Second Department, held on October 6, 1911, paying money to Louis T. Walter, Jr., delegate to said convention, for the purpose of inducing said Walter to vote at said convention for the said Willett; and conspiring, together with Louis T. Walter, Jr., and Joseph Cassidy, to promote the nomination and election of him, the said William Willett, to the office of Justice of the Supreme Court, Second Department, State of New York, on October 6, 1911, by means which are prohibited by law, to wit, payment and receipt of cash consideration; requesting and accepting the nomination as Justice of the Supreme Court of the Second Department on the payment or contribution by him of a sum of money to one Louis T. Walter.' A similar commitment was issued in the case of Louis T. Walter, Jr., containing a recital that he was held 'upon a charge of fraudulently

Page 816

and wrongfully receiving money from one William Willett before the Democratic Judiciary Convention of the Second Department, held on October 6, 1911, upon the agreement and understanding that he, said Louis T. Walters, Jr., should vote for the said William Willett in such convention; conspiring together with William Willett and Joseph Cassidy to promote the nomination and the election of William Willett as a Justice of the Supreme Court, Second Department, by means which are prohibited by law, to wit, payment and receipt of money, and procuring or causing the said William Willett to be nominated to the office of Justice of the Supreme Court, for the Second Department of the State of New York, upon the payment of contribution by said Willett to him of a sum of money.' A similar commitment was issued in the case of Joseph Cassidy, containing a recital that he was held to answer 'upon a charge of conspiring together with William Willett and Louis T. Walter, Jr., to promote the nomination and election of the said William Willett to the office of Justice of the Supreme Court, for the Second Department, State of New York, by means which are prohibited by law, to wit, payment and receipt of a cash consideration; tendering and offering to procure and causing the nomination of William Willett as a nominee for the office of Justice of the Supreme Court upon the Democratic ticket, for the Second Department as aforesaid, upon the payment or contribution of a sum of money, or upon an understanding or promise thereof.' Thereupon each of the persons named sued out a writ of habeas corpus before a justice of this court, and from a final order in each of said proceedings dismissing said writ and remanding the relator therein to the custody of the sheriff, these various appeals are taken.

The validity of the commitments is challenged upon three grounds:

1. That the magistrate was without jurisdiction to issue the same (a) because the deposition presented to him on or about November second, whether properly termed an information or by whatever name described, designated no crime and charged no person with the commission thereof, and, therefore, the subpoenas issued by him were void; (b) because at that time a grand jury was in session in the county of Queens, and the

Page 817

district attorney of the county might have presented to such grand jury the same evidence which was submitted to Mr. Justice SCUDDER as a magistrate.

2. That the examination of the witnesses whose testimony was reduced to the form of depositions and sworn to, and which constitute the basis of the several commitments, was taken in public and not in private.

3. That the evidence before such magistrate was not sufficient to justify him in concluding either that any crime had been committed, or that either of the defendants had been guilty of the crimes with which he was charged.

'When an information is laid before a magistrate, of the commission of a crime, he must examine on oath the informant or prosecutor, and any witnesses he may produce, and take their depositions in writing, and cause them to be subscribed by the parties making them.' (Code Crim. Proc. § 148.) 'A magistrate, before whom an information is laid, may issue subpoenas, subscribed by him, for witnesses within the State, either on behalf of the People or of the defendant.' (Code Crim. Proc. § 608.) In such information facts enough must be stated to show that the informant is acting in good faith, and that he has reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed by some person named or described. ( People ex rel. Livingston v. Wyatt,186 N.Y. 383.) If such is not the case, then the subpoenas issued are void and the witnesses summoned are under no obligations to obey the same. If under such circumstances an attempt should be made to punish them for disobedience, an adequate remedy may be obtained by them through the writ of habeas corpus. (People ex rel. Livingston v. Wyatt, supra.) Whether at the instance of the persons affected thereby a writ of prohibition will be granted to prevent the issue of such subpoenas and the examination of witnesses thereunder, we need not ...


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