No. 353.

173 U.S. 276 (1899)


Supreme Court of United States.

Decided February 27, 1899.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Charles H. Bosler and Mr. Otto J. Renner, for plaintiff in error, submitted on their brief.

Mr. Judson Harmon for defendant in error. Mr. D.W. Bowman was on his brief.

MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after stating the facts, delivered the opinion of the court.

The act of the legislature of the State of Ohio, passed May 16, 1868, ceding jurisdiction to the United States, if it had remained in force, would have prevented the state officials from taking jurisdiction in this case. Congress, however, by the act of January 21, 1871, ceded back and relinquished the jurisdiction that had been granted, and provided that it would claim or exercise no jurisdiction thereafter, except as therein mentioned.

If we assume, what the state court decided, that the provisions of the state statute relating to the sale of oleomargarine were intended to apply to and cover the soldiers' home, the question then arises whether the State had the power to legislate so as to control the governor of the home, acting under the direction of the board of managers and by the authority of Congress, in regard to the internal administration of the affairs of the home and in respect to the conditions upon which an article of food might be provided by the governor under such directions and authority.

The home is a Federal creation, and is under the direct and sole jurisdiction of Congress. The board of managers have certain powers granted them, Rev. Stat. § 4825, and among other things to make by-laws, rules and regulations not inconsistent with law for carrying on the business and government of the home.

The persons entitled to the benefits of the home are "officers and soldiers who served in the late war for the suppression of the rebellion," and also other soldiers and sailors. The inmates are subject to the rules and articles of war, the same as if they were in the army. Rev. Stat. §§ 4832, 4835.

Under the statutes above cited, in which it is provided that the board of managers shall furnish to the Secretary of War, in each year, estimates, in detail, for the support of the home for the succeeding fiscal year, it would naturally be the duty of the governor of each home, in order to enable the board of managers to perform their own duty, to report to the board the same kind of detailed estimates that the board is by law directed to report to the Secretary of War, and which are to be included by the Secretary in the estimates for his department. At all events, the duty is laid upon the board of managers, by the very terms of the statute, to make these estimates in detail. It is admitted in the record that the oleomargarine complained about herein was served and furnished by the appellee as food and as part of the rations furnished the inmates under the appropriations made by Congress for the support of such inmates.

From these facts the inference is plain that oleomargarine had been included in the detailed estimates for rations to be furnished the inmates, and that the appropriation for rations included oleomargarine as part thereof. Otherwise we should have to infer a dereliction of duty on the part of the board of managers in not making out estimates in detail, and we would adopt an inference contrary to the admission, which states that the oleomargarine was furnished as food under an appropriation of Congress. The appropriation does not precede the detailed estimates, but is made subsequently and is presumably enacted with reference thereto. Congress has therefore in effect provided oleomargarine as part of the rations for the inmates of the home. It is given them in the mess room of the institution and under the rules and regulations for feeding them there. In making provision for so feeding the inmates, the governor, under the direction of the board of managers and with the assent and approval of Congress, is engaged in the internal administration of a Federal institution, and we think a state legislature has no constitutional power to interfere with such management as is provided by Congress.

Whatever jurisdiction the State may have over the place or ground where the institution is located, it can have none to interfere with the provision made by Congress for furnishing food to the inmates of the home, nor has it power to prohibit or regulate the furnishing of any article of food which is approved by the officers of the home, by the board of managers and by Congress. Under such circumstances the police power of the State has no application.

We mean by this statement to say that Federal officers who are discharging their duties in a State and who are engaged as this appellee was engaged in superintending the internal government and management of a Federal institution, under the lawful direction of its board of managers and with the approval of Congress, are not subject to the jurisdiction of the State in regard to those very matters of administration which are thus approved by Federal authority.

In asserting that this officer under such circumstances is exempt from the state law, the United States are not thereby claiming jurisdiction over this particular piece of land, in opposition to the language of the act of Congress ceding back the jurisdiction the United States received from the State. The government is but claiming that its own officers, when discharging duties under Federal authority pursuant to and by virtue of valid Federal laws, are not subject to arrest or other liability under the laws of the State in which their duties are performed.

The claim is made that neither the board of managers nor the governor of the home can through their officers or by himself violate the statute law of a State having jurisdiction, when the acts constituting the infringement are not necessary for the government and management of the home for the purpose for which it was incorporated, or authorized by any act of the United States.

This claim might be conceded and still the conviction of the appellee would be invalid, because we find in this record the authority of the United States for the act of the governor. The statutes above referred to, when taken in connection with the admitted facts, show an appropriation by Congress for the purchase of oleomargarine as part of the regular rations of the inmates of the home. The act of the governor in serving it was authorized by Congress and it was therefore legal, any act of the State to the contrary notwithstanding.

Under the facts herein the state court had no jurisdiction to try the appellee for the offence charged in the written complaint made to the magistrate. See authorities cited in In re Waite, 81 Fed. Rep. 359.

Assuming, in accordance with the decision of the state court, that the act of the Ohio legislature applies in terms to the soldiers' home at Dayton, in that State, we are of opinion that the governor was not subject to that law and the court had no jurisdiction to hear or determine the criminal prosecution in question, because the act complained of was performed as part of the duty of the governor as a Federal officer in and by virtue of valid Federal authority, and in the performance of that duty he was not subject to the direction or control of the legislature of Ohio.

The authorities cited in the case of In re Waite, supra, and those cited by the learned circuit judge in this case fully support the view we have taken herein. The cases of Tennessee v. Davis, 100 U.S. 257; Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, 394, 395; In re Loney, 134 U.S. 372; In re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1, all concur in upholding the paramount authority of the Federal government under circumstances similar, in effect, to those set forth in this record.

Some of the same authorities also show that this is one of the cases where it is proper to issue a writ of habeas corpus from the Federal court instead of awaiting the slow process of a writ of error from this court to the highest court of the State where a decision could be had. One of the grounds for making such a case as this an exception to the general rule laid down in Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241; Whitten v. Tomlinson, 160 U.S. 231, and Baker v. Grice, 169 U.S. 284, consists in the fact that the Federal officer proceeded against in the courts of the State may, upon conviction, be imprisoned as a means of enforcing the sentence of a fine, and thus the operations of the Federal government might in the meantime be obstructed. This is such a case. In Ex parte Royall, it was stated by Mr. Justice Harlan, in naming some of the exceptions to the general rule there laid down, that "When the petitioner is in custody by state authority for an act done or omitted to be done in pursuance of a law of the United States or of an order, process or decree of a court or judge thereof; or where, being a subject or citizen of a foreign State, and domiciled therein, he is in custody, under like authority, for an act done or omitted under any alleged right, title, authority, privilege, protection or exemption claimed under the commission or order or sanction of any foreign State or under color thereof, the validity and effect whereof depend upon the law of nations; in such and like cases of urgency, involving the authority and operations of the General Government or the obligations of this country to or its relations with foreign nations, the courts of the United States have frequently interposed by writs of habeas corpus and discharged prisoners who were held in custody under state authority."

For the reasons herein given we think the order of the Circuit Court of Appeals, affirming the Circuit Court, was right, and it must be


MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurred in the judgment, but not in all the reasoning of the opinion.

The CHIEF JUSTICE took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


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