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CHAPMAN v. UNITED STATES.

decided: November 30, 1896.

CHAPMAN
v.
UNITED STATES.



ERROR TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

Author: Fuller

[ 164 U.S. Page 446]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, 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, c. 74, establishing that court. 27 Stat. 434. 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, c. 15, entitled "An act concerning the District of Columbia," 2 Stat. 103, 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 reexamined and

[ 164 U.S. Page 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 United States 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 one hundred dollars, yet that is, in the eye of the law, a punishment for the offence 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 hereafter cited, and need not be again reviewed.

The act of March 3, 1885, c. 355, 23 Stat. 443, consists of two sections, reading:

"That no appeal or writ of error shall hereafter be allowed from any judgment or decree in any suit at law or in equity in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, or in the Supreme Court of any of the Territories of the United States, unless the matter in dispute, exclusive of costs, shall exceed the sum of five thousand dollars.

"SEC. 2. That the preceding section shall not apply to any case wherein is involved the validity of any patent or copyright, or in which is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of or an authority exercised under the United States; but in all such cases an appeal or writ of error may be brought without regard to the sum or value in dispute."

[ 164 U.S. Page 448]

     We have decided that this court has no jurisdiction to grant a writ of error to review the judgments of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia in criminal cases either under the judiciary act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826, In re Heath, 144 U.S. 92; or under the act of February 6, 1889, c. 113, 25 Stat. 655, Cross v. United States, 145 U.S. 571; or on habeas corpus, Cross v. Burke, 146 U.S. 82. And although the validity of any patent or copyright, or of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States, was not drawn in question in those cases, it was distinctly ruled in reaching the conclusions announced that neither of the sections of the act of March 3, 1885, applied to any criminal case; and Farnsworth v. ...


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