MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.
Nathaniel C. Patterson, a duly enrolled Seneca Indian residing on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in the State of New York, died testate leaving a widow (a white woman), a daughter and three sons. The widow was named in the will as sole executrix. The will was regularly admitted to probate by the surrogate of Erie County, New York, and letters of administration granted. The widow thereupon presented her letters of administration together with the will to the peacemakers' court of the Cattaraugus Reservation, where the deceased had left real property, asking that the probate of the will be recognized or the
The district court exercised its discretion in favor of issuing the writ principally upon the ground that Pierce and Warren Kennedy being Seneca Indians were wards of the Nation and entitled to the protection of the federal courts. But in deciding the case upon the merits, that court pointed out that as early as 1849 the State of New York, at the earnest request of the Indians themselves, had assumed jurisdiction over them and their lands and possessions within the state; that to that end state laws had been enacted for their civil government and the regulation of their internal affairs; that the peacemakers' courts on the several reservations were created by state law; and that the courts of the state had uniformly held that the power of the state in respect of these matters had never been doubted or questioned, and such sovereignty as the Indians may have formerly possessed had been merged and lost in the sovereignty of the state under which they must look for protection of life and property. In the absence of congressional action, the district court concluded that these state laws and decisions, by long acquiescence on the part of the Indians, had become rules of property within the state and were controlling. The writ was accordingly dismissed. United States v. Waldow, 294 Fed. 111.
We are asked to enter upon a review of these matters and of the historical relations of the Indians to the Nation and to the State of New York from a time long anterior to the adoption of the federal Constitution. The conclusion we have reached makes this unnecessary. It is enough for present purposes to say that the State of New York, as early as 1849, at the request of the Indians, assumed governmental control of them and their property, passed laws creating and defining the jurisdiction of the
The rule has been firmly established by repeated decisions of this court that the power conferred on a federal court to issue a writ of habeas corpus to inquire into the cause of the detention of any person asserting that he is being held in custody by the authority of a state court in violation of the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, is not unqualified, but is to be exerted in the exercise of a sound discretion. The due and orderly administration of justice in a state court is not to be thus interfered with save in rare cases where exceptional circumstances of peculiar urgency are shown to exist. Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, 250-253; In re Wood, 140 U.S. 278, 289; In re Frederich, 149 U.S. 70, 77-78; New
In New York v. Eno, supra, a federal circuit court had discharged a prisoner held by virtue of the judgment of a state court on the ground that the offenses for which he was indicted were exclusively cognizable under the authority of the United States. This court reversed the judgment, holding that the state court of original jurisdiction was competent to decide the questions in the first instance and that "its obligation to render such decision as will give full effect to the supreme law of the land and protect any right secured by it to the accused is the same that rests upon the courts of the United States. When the claim of the accused of immunity from prosecution in a state court for the offences charged against him has been passed upon by the highest court of New York in which it can be determined, he may then, if the final judgment of that court be adverse to him, invoke the jurisdiction of this court for his protection in respect of any federal right distinctly asserted by him, but which may be denied by such judgment."
This general rule is emphasized by a consideration of the few cases where this court has upheld the allowance of the writ. They were all cases of exceptional urgency. Such, for example, were In re Neagle, 135 U.S. 1, where a deputy marshal of the United States was discharged on habeas corpus from state custody on a charge of homicide committed in the performance of his duty to guard and protect a justice of this court; In re Loney, 134 U.S. 372, where petitioner, charged with perjury in testimony given in a contested congressional election case, was discharged
It is hardly necessary to say that this case presents no such exceptional and imperative circumstances. The state courts proceeded under laws passed in response to the request of the Indian Nation of which contemners are members, — laws which apparently for the greater part of a century had not been seriously challenged as impeding the authority of the federal government. Under these conditions, contemners, deliberately having taken the risk of setting at defiance the judgment of the state court, must look for redress, if they are entitled to any, to the appropriate and authorized appellate remedies. They are not entitled to relief in a federal court by the writ of habeas corpus.
Something is said in the opinion of the court below to the effect that the relators pleaded lack of ability to bear the expense of proceedings for their protection in the state courts or to furnish bonds required on appeal. We are unable to find anything in the record to support this claim, but even if it were true it would afford no basis for a different conclusion. Markuson v. Boucher, 175 U.S. 184, 185, 187.
The court below should have discharged the writ upon the foregoing grounds rather than upon the merits, but the result being the same, the judgment is