164 U.S. 436
November 30, 1896
Geo. F. Edmunds and J. M. Wilson, for plaintiff in error.
Sol. Gen. Conrad, for the United States.
Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
The appellate jurisdiction of this court rests on the acts of congress, and the question is whether we have jurisdiction to review on writ of error a judgment of the court of appeals of the District of Columbia in a criminal case under section 8 of the act of February 9, 1893, establishing that court (27 Stat. 434, c. 74). And the proper construction of that section is to be arrived at in the light of previous decisions in respect of similar statutory provisions conferring appellate jurisdiction.
Section 8 of the act of February 27, 1801, entitled 'An act concerning the District of Columbia' (2 Stat. 103, c. 15), and creating a circuit court for the District, provided 'that any final judgment, order or decree in said circuit court, wherein the matter in dispute, exclusive of costs, shall exceed the value of one hundred dollars, may be re- examined and [164 U.S. 436, 447] reversed or affirmed in the supreme court of the United States, by writ of error or appeal, which shall be prosecuted in the same manner, under the same regulations, and the same proceedings shall be had therein, as is or shall be provided in the case of writs of error on judgments, or appeals upon orders or decrees, rendered in the circuit court of the United States.'
In U. S. v. More, 3 Cranch, 159, 173 (decided in 1805), it was held that this court had no jurisdiction, under that section, over the judgments of the circuit court of the District in criminal cases, and Chief Justice Marshall said: 'On examining the act, 'concerning the District of Columbia,' the court is of opinion that the appellate jurisdiction granted by that act is confined to civil cases. The words, 'matter in dispute,' seem appropriated to civil cases, where the subject in contest has a value beyond the sum mentioned in the act. But, in criminal cases, the question is the guilt or innocence of the accused. And, although he may be fined upwards of 100 dollars, yet that is, in the eye of the law, a punishment for the offense committed, and not the particular object of the suit.'
The section, as thus construed, was carried forward in the subsequent legislation on the subject, which is referred to at length and considered in cases bereafter cited, and need not be again reviewed.
The act of March 3, 1885 (23 Stat. 443, c. 355), consists of two sections, reading:
In Farnsworth v. Territory of Montana, in which it was claimed that the validity of an authority exercised under the United States was drawn in question, it was held that the second section of the act did not extend to criminal cases, but that both sections applied to cases where there was a matter in dispute measurably by some sum or value in money. The view taken was that the second section contained an exception or limitation carved out of the first section, and that the words, that in the enumerated cases, 'an appeal or writ of error may be brought without regard to the sum or value in dispute,' clearly implied that in those cases, also, there must be a pecuniary matter in dispute, measurable by some sum or value, though not restricted in amount.
In U. S. v. Sanges, referring to Snow v. U. S., 118 U.S. 346 , 6 Sup. Ct. 1059, we said: 'The question whether the provision of the act of March 3, 1885, c. 355, 2, authorizing a writ of error from this court to the supreme court of any territory in any case 'in which is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States,' extended to criminal cases, was then left open, but at October term, 1888, it was decided in the negative. Farnsworth v. Territory of Montana, 129 U.S. 104 , 9 Sup. Ct. 253.' [164 U.S. 436, 449] And in Washington & G. R. Co. v. District of Columbia, 146 U.S. 227, 231 , 13 S. Sup. Ct. 64, 66, it was said: 'Both sections of the act of March 3, 1885, regulating appeals from the supreme court of the District of Columbia, apply to cases where there is a matter in dispute measurable by some sum or value in money. Farnsworth v. Territory of Montana, 129 U.S. 104, 112 , 9 S. Sup. Ct. 253, 255; Cross v. Burke, 146 U.S. 82 , 13 Sup. Ct. 22. By that act no appeal or writ of error can be allowed from any judgment or decree in any suit at law or in equity in the supreme court of the District of Columbia, unless the matter in dispute exclusive of costs shall exceed the sum of five thousand dollars, except that, where the case involves the validity of any patent or copyright, or the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States, is drawn in question, jurisdiction may be maintained irrespective of the amount of the sum or value in dispute.'
Watts v. Territory of Washington, 91 U.S. 580 , decided at October term, 1875, is cited as sustaining a different construction, but the point of decision there was that it nowhere appeared that the constitution or any statute or treaty of the United States was in any manner drawn in question, and the broad language of the opinion was plainly obiter, as pointed out in Farnsworth v. Territory of Montana.
The eighth section of the act of February 9, 1893, establishing the court of appeals of the District of Columbia, is as follows:
We regard this section and the act of 1885 as the same in their meaning and legal effect. The act of 1885 prohibits appeals or writs of error unless the matter in dispute exceeds the sum of $5,000, and provides that the restriction shall not apply to certain enumerated cases, 'but that in all such cases an appeal or writ of error shall be brought without regard to the sum or value in dispute.'
The act of 1893 allows appeals or writs of error whenever the matter in dispute exceeds the sum of $5,000, and also in cases, 'without out regard to the sum or value of the matter in dispute,' wherein the validity of any patent, or copyright, or of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States, is drawn in question, being the same cases mentioned in the second section of the act of 1885. We think, as that section clearly applied to cases where there was a pecuniary matter in dispute, measurable by some sum or value, as has been repeatedly decided, the last clause of section 8 of the act of 1893 must receive the same construction. The meaning of both statutes is that, in the cases enumerated, the limitations on the amount is removed, but both alike refer to cases where there is a pecuniary matter in dispute, measurable by some sum or value, and they alike have no application to criminal cases. The suggestion that, because the punishment for conviction by the statute under which plaintiff in error was indicted, tried, and convicted, embraced a fine, there was, therefore, a sum of money in dispute, was disposed of by Chief Justice Marshall in U. S. v. More, supra. We repeat the language of the chief justice: 'In criminal cases, the question is of the guilt or innocence of the accused. And, although he may be fined upwards of 100 dollars, yet that is, in the eye of the law, a punishment for the offense committed, and not the particular object of the suit.'
It is contended that the words 'and also,' as used in the section under consideration, are words 'of legal art,' of 'almost immemorially precise and technical meaning,' and import [164 U.S. 436, 451] not a restriction of matter previously stated, but a transition from what had been previously declared to a new and independent subject intended to stand by itself.
We do not care to go into the struggle between the courts of king's bench and common pleas on the question of the jurisdiction of the former over civil actions, which led to the curious device of the ac etiam, more particularly to avoid the effect of 13 Car. II. St. 2, c. 2. It was invented in order to couple, with a cause of action over which the court of king's bench had jurisdiction, another cause of action, over which, without being joined with the first, the court would not have had jurisdiction. 2 Sell. Prac. Append. 625, 630; Burges, Insolv. 135, 149.
We are unable to conclude that congress, which might easily have conferred jurisdiction in plain and explicit language, resorted to this ancient contrivance to effect it.
The argument is pressed that, as, by section 5 of the judiciary act of 1891, cases of conviction of capital or otherwise ifamous crimes, cases involving the construction or application of the constitution of the United States, or cases in which the constitutionality of any law of the United States is drawn in question, can be brought to this court directly from the district and circuit courts of the United States, therefore this section should be construed as giving the same right of review in the District of Columbia.
But we think the section too plain to admit of this. No mention of the courts of the District of Columbia is made in the act of March 3, 1891, and there is nothing in the eighth section to justify its expansion so as to embrace the provisions of that act. In re Heath, 144 U.S. 92, 96 , 12 S. Sup. Ct. 615, 616.
The writ of error was granted by the court of appeals in this case with reluctance, as appears from the opinion of Chief Justice Alvey, in passing upon the application therefor, given in the record, and out of deference to the supposed intimation in Re Chapman, 156 U.S. 211 , 15 Sup. Ct. 331, and in Re Belt, 159 U.S. 95 , 15 Sup. Ct. 987, that it might lie. It is quite possible that the language used in the opinions in those cases was somewhat too cautiously worded, but it was with the purpose, as the question was not [164 U.S. 436, 452] raised for decision, of avoiding, rather than expressing, any views upon it.
We are of opinion that the writ of error cannot be maintained. Writ of error dismissed.