152 U.S. 211 (1894), 1001, Caha v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 1001
Citation:152 U.S. 211, 14 S.Ct. 513, 38 L.Ed. 415
Party Name:Caha v. United States
Case Date:March 05, 1894
Court:United States Supreme Court

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152 U.S. 211 (1894)

14 S.Ct. 513, 38 L.Ed. 415



United States

No. 1001

United States Supreme Court

March 5, 1894

Argued January 15-16, 1894




The District Court of the United States in the District of Kansas had jurisdiction over a prosecution for the crime of perjury, in violation of the

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provisions of Rev.Stat. § 5392, committed in what is now the Territory of Oklahoma before the passage of the act creating that territory, although the indictment was not found until after the passage of that act.

Within the scope of Rev.Stat. § 5392, local land officers, in hearing and deciding upon a contest in respect of a homestead entry, constitute a competent tribunal, and the contest so pending before them is a case in which the laws of the United States authorize an oath to be administered.

False swearing in a land contest before a local land office in respect of a homestead entry is perjury within the scope of Rev.Stat. § 5392.

The courts of the United States take judicial notice of rules and regulations prescribed by the Department of the Interior in respect of contests before the Land Office.

Wherever, by the express language of any act of Congress, power is entrusted to either of the principal departments of government to prescribe rules and regulations for the transaction of business in which the public is interested and in respect to which they have a right to participate and by which they are to be controlled, the rules and regulations prescribed in pursuance of such authority become a mass of that body of public records of which the courts take judicial notice.

The case is stated in the opinion.

BREWER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BREWER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case comes on error from the District Court of the United States for the District of Kansas. On March 31, 1893, plaintiff in error, having been found guilty of the crime of perjury by the verdict of a jury, was sentenced to confinement in the Kansas State Penitentiary for a term of two years, and to pay a fine of ten dollars.

The questions are these: the indictment was returned September 22, 1892. It in two counts charged the defendant with the crime of perjury, committed on January 3, 1890, in the land office at Kingfisher, Oklahoma, in falsely testifying

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that he was on a sand bar in the South Canadian River at 12 o'clock noon on the 22d of April, 1889; that this false testimony was given in a contest then pending in the land office, in which one Thomas Burch contested defendant's homestead entry on the ground that he had violated the Act of Congress of March 2, 1889, and the President's proclamation, by entering upon and occupying the lands opened to settlement under such proclamation prior to 12 o'clock noon of the day named therein, to-wit, April 22, 1889.

The two counts are similar, the only material difference being that in the first count, the oath is charged to have been administered by J. V. Admire, the receiver of the land office, and in the second by J. C. Roberts, the register of the land office, each being, as averred, authorized to administer the oath by the laws of the United States and the regulations of the land office. To this indictment a demurrer was presented which, after argument, was overruled, and the first matter for consideration is this ruling. The grounds of the demurrer still insisted upon are first that the court had no jurisdiction over the alleged offense, and secondly that the indictment stated no public offense.

As to the first of these grounds, it is not disputed that the District Court of Kansas had, at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, jurisdiction generally of offenses against the criminal laws of the United States committed in the country known as Oklahoma, the place where this offense is charged to have been committed, but on the 2d of May, 1890, Congress passed an act creating the Territory of Oklahoma, 26 Stat. 81, c. 182. In section 9 is found this provision:

Each of the said district courts shall have and exercise, exclusive of any courts heretofore established, the same jurisdiction in all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States as is vested in the circuit and district courts of the United States. . . . All acts and parts of acts heretofore enacted, conferring jurisdiction upon United States courts held beyond and outside of the limits of the Territory [14 S.Ct. 514] of Oklahoma as herein defined, as to

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all causes of action or offences in said territory, and in that portion of the Cherokee Outlet hereinbefore referred to, are hereby repealed, and such jurisdiction is hereby given to the supreme and district courts in said territory; but all actions commenced in such courts, and crimes committed in said territory and in the Cherokee Outlet, prior to the passage of this act shall be tried and prosecuted and proceeded with until finally disposed of in the courts now having jurisdiction thereof as if this act had not been passed.

The contention is that by this section, jurisdiction was given to the district courts of Oklahoma, the indictment not having been found until September, 1892, and the reservation of jurisdiction to the Kansas court being limited to the cases in which prosecutions had already been commenced. We do not so understand the provision. The general grant of jurisdiction to the Oklahoma courts is prospective in its operation. Such is the ordinary rule of construction, and the repeal of the act vesting jurisdiction in the Kansas court is limited by a proviso which includes not only "actions commenced," but "crimes committed." Counsel lay stress upon the words "having jurisdiction thereof," and argue that courts have no jurisdiction of crimes, but only of actions for the punishment of crimes. But this is placing too much stress upon a subordinate part of the sentence. If the scope of the sentence be as thus contended for, the words "crimes committed" are superfluous, and it would have been sufficient to have said, "all actions commenced in such courts prior to the passage of this act," etc. For the word "actions" may include both civil and criminal proceedings. But Congress went further and provided not only that all "actions commenced in such courts," but also that all "crimes committed in said territory" prior to the passage of the act should be "tried, prosecuted, and proceeded with until finally disposed of." Grammatically, "crimes committed in said territory" is an independent nominative, and refers to matters different from those embraced within the term "actions commenced in such courts." It is fair under such cases, in order to determine the meaning, to omit the one nominative and read the sentence as though the other only

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were present, and so it will read

all crimes committed in said territory prior to the passage of this act shall be tried, prosecuted, and proceeded with until finally disposed of in the courts now having jurisdiction thereof, as if this act had not been passed.-

So reading, the meaning cannot be doubtful. Whatever of jurisdiction the District Court of Kansas had at the time of the alleged offense remained unaffected by the Act of May 2, 1890.

Neither can it be doubted that the District Court of Kansas had jurisdiction over a prosecution for the crime of perjury committed at the place named in violation of the provisions of Rev.Stat. § 5392. That section -- and under it this indictment was found -- reads as follows:

Every person who, having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true is guilty of perjury.

This statute is one of universal application within the territorial limits of the United States, and is not limited to those portions which are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the national government, such as the District of Columbia. Generally...

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