MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
Defendant was indicted in the District Court of the United States for violation of the United States Warehouse Act. 7 U.S.C. 270. The indictment contained three counts, each charging the "removal and stealing" of a numbered bale of cotton from a licensed warehouse contrary to the statute and regulations.
The penal provision of the statute, so far as pertinent here, is as follows:
"Every person who shall . . . remove from a licensed warehouse contrary to this chapter or the regulations promulgated thereunder, any agricultural products stored or to be stored in such warehouse, and for which licensed receipts have been or are to be issued, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined not more than $10,000, or double the value of the products involved if such double value exceeds $10,000, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both, in the discretion of the court, . . ."
The District Judge certified his grounds for sustaining the demurrer as follows:
"(1) That said indictment fails to charge any offense against the laws of the United States;
"(2) That the indictment fails to charge that the cotton alleged to have been removed and stolen was the property of any person;
"(3) That the indictment fails to allege the name of the owner of said cotton, and does not charge any intent to defraud the owner thereof;
"(4) That the indictment does not allege the value of the cotton alleged to have been removed and stolen, or that the cotton was of any value;
"(5) That section 270, title 7, of the United States Code, being the section under which the indictment is drawn, is unconstitutional, in that, Congress is without authority under the Constitution to make it an offense
1. The jurisdiction of this Court. If the first four grounds of the decision, as stated in the certificate of the District Judge, are to be taken as wholly independent of the questions of the construction and validity of the United States Warehouse Act, those grounds may not be challenged on this appeal. The statute conferring jurisdiction on appeal by the Government in criminal prosecutions confines that jurisdiction to cases where the decision of the District Court, on demurrer, motion to quash or in arrest of judgment, "is based upon the invalidity or construction of the statute upon which the indictment is founded," or where the District Court has sustained "a special plea in bar, when the defendant has not been put in jeopardy." 18 U.S.C. 682. The proposal to confer a broader jurisdiction was considered by the Congress and rejected.
An analogous situation is found in cases where the jurisdiction of this Court has been invoked on writs of error or appeals from judgments of state courts, and it appears that, notwithstanding the existence of a federal question, and its consideration and determination by the state court, the judgment rests upon a nonfederal ground adequate to support it and hence would not be affected by a decision by this Court of the federal question. In such cases, we refuse review. While the earlier practice was to affirm the judgment without considering the federal question, the later practice has been to dismiss the writ of error or appeal. Murdock v. Memphis, 20 Wall. 590, 634, 635; Jenkins v. Loewenthal, 110 U.S. 222; Hale v. Akers, 132 U.S. 554, 565; Hammond v. Johnston, 142 U.S. 73, 78; Eustis v. Bolles, 150 U.S. 361, 370; Enterprise Irrigation District v. Farmers Canal Co., 243 U.S. 157, 164, 166; Petrie v. Nampa Irrigation District, 248 U.S. 154,
It was in the light of the considerations governing the exercise of the judicial power that the Criminal Appeals Act was enacted and appeals by the Government were subjected to the prescribed limitations. United States v. Evans, 213 U.S. 297, 300. We think that the provision which limits the Government's appeal to those cases where the decision or judgment of the District Court is "based" upon the invalidity or construction of the statute, should be taken to refer to cases where that determination, and not a wholly independent ground, is the foundation of the judgment. If the judgment is independently based, and in that respect is not open to correction or reversal, we are of the opinion that this Court should not entertain the Government's appeal. To the extent that the opinion in the case of United States v. Stevenson, 215 U.S. 190, 195, states a contrary view, it is disapproved.
Are the first four grounds stated by the District Judge independent of the construction of the statute? The first ground may fairly be regarded as not a distinct ground, or a finding of the insufficiency of the indictment as a mere matter of pleading, but as intended to be an introduction to the specifications which follow and to be read in their light. Treating the first ground in this sense, and as merely preliminary, we turn to the specifications in the second, third and fourth grounds, which clearly involve the construction of the Act. That is, they go upon the view that the ingredients of the statutory offense are similar to those of common law larceny and that to establish the offense it must be alleged and proved that the cotton in question was the property of a person named, was removed with intent to defraud the owner, and had value. It is the contention of the Government that this is an unwarranted construction and that the
In his fifth ground, the District Judge expressly deals with the constitutionality of the provision, holding that Congress is without authority "to make it an offense against the laws of the United States to remove agricultural products from a federal licensed warehouse as alleged in the indictment." The concluding words challenge attention to the absence from the indictment of an allegation that the cotton was stored for interstate or foreign commerce. The statement of the District Judge may be taken to be a construction of the indictment as charging simply the removal of the cotton from a federal licensed warehouse which had issued a receipt, without alleging that the cotton was stored for interstate or foreign commerce, and that the receipt was issued accordingly. We are not at liberty to construe the indictment otherwise. While in this view, the present appeal does not bring up the questions broadly discussed at the bar as to products stored for interstate or foreign commerce — questions which must await a different and appropriate record — the appeal does present a narrower but still important question as to the scope of the penal provision. That is, whether Congress sought to exert and, if so, could validly exert, such a measure of control over warehouses operating under federal licenses, as to penalize the removal of products deposited in such warehouses, and receipted for, regardless of the purpose, or the nature of the commerce, for which the deposit was made.
We have jurisdiction to determine these questions of construction and validity.
2. The construction of the statute. To construe the penal provision, we turn to its context, to the statutory definition of the terms it employs, and to the purpose thus disclosed.
The following provision for the issue of warehouse receipts is of special importance:
The next section prescribes the contents of receipts which may be taken to refer to the receipts required by the provision above quoted. Id., § 260.
In the original Act of 1916 it was provided that nothing therein should "be construed to conflict with, or to authorize any conflict with, or in any way to impair or limit the effect or operation of the laws of any State relating to warehouses, warehousemen, weighers, graders, or classifiers," but the Secretary of Agriculture was authorized "to cooperate" with state officials and "through such cooperation to secure the enforcement" of the provisions of the Act. Act of August 11, 1916, Part C, § 29, 39 Stat. 490. This section was amended in 1931, so as to provide for cooperation with state officials in the "discretion" of the Secretary, and with the addition that "the power, jurisdiction, and authority" conferred upon the Secretary should be "exclusive with respect to all persons securing a license," so long as the license remains in effect. Act of March 2, 1931, 46 Stat. 1465; 7 U.S.C. § 269.
Then follows the provision prescribing penalties for the forging, altering, counterfeiting, etc. of licenses, the issue of false or fraudulent receipts, and the conversion or the unauthorized removal from a licensed warehouse of agricultural products for which "licensed receipts" have been or are to be issued. Id., § 270.
The instant case relates to cotton, and the Government emphasizes the salient facts as to the customary movement
It would need stronger evidence than this Act affords to justify the conclusion that Congress intended that warehousemen, in taking advantage of the federal statute and in issuing warehouse receipts as required by its terms, should submit to federal control the deposit of products and the issue of warehouse receipts in the course of their local business where the products were not stored for interstate or foreign commerce. Despite the broad language of certain sections of the Act, we think that (aside from places within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States) the limitation to storage for interstate or foreign commerce is dominant. We have observed how specific is this limitation in the provision requiring the issue of warehouse receipts. To repeat, the requirement
The penal section under which the indictment is laid defines the offense as not simply the unauthorized removal of agricultural products from a "licensed warehouse," but the removal of products" for which licensed receipts have been or are to be issued." § 270. We think that the term "licensed receipts" refers to those prescribed by the statute as above stated.
We agree with the Government that the penal section is fully descriptive of the statutory offense and does not require that a charge of violation should contain allegations such as would be appropriate in the case of common law larceny. But the statute does require that in order to make out a violation through the unauthorized removal of agricultural products, it is not enough that the removal should be from a licensed warehouse, or that a receipt has been given by the warehouseman, but the removal must also be of products for which "licensed receipts" have been or are to be issued. That is, it is an essential ingredient of the offense that the products have been stored for interstate or foreign commerce, or in a place subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, and that warehouse receipts have been or are to be issued for such storage.
Because of the absence from the charge of an essential element of the offense as defined in the statute, the District Court did not err in sustaining the demurrer.