194 Cal. 49, Crim. 2658, In re Application of R. Wood

Docket Nº:Crim. 2658
Citation:194 Cal. 49, 227 P. 908
Opinion Judge:MYERS, Judge
Party Name:In the Matter of the Application of R. WOOD for Writ of Habeas Corpus
Attorney:R. W. Henderson and L. B. Schlingheyde for Petitioner. J. M. Friedlander, City Prosecutor, W. V. Cowan and U.S. Webb, Attorney-General, for Respondent.
Judge Panel:JUDGES: In Bank. Myers, C. J. Lawlor, J., Richards, J., Seawell, J., Lennon, J., Waste, J., and Shenk, J., concurred.
Case Date:June 20, 1924
Court:Supreme Court of California

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194 Cal. 49

227 P. 908

In the Matter of the Application of R. WOOD for Writ of Habeas Corpus

Crim. No. 2658

Supreme Court of California

June 20, 1924

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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PROCEEDING in Habeas Corpus to secure release from custody on a charge of contempt of court for violation of an injunction.

Writ discharged and prisoner remanded.


R. W. Henderson and L. B. Schlingheyde for Petitioner.

J. M. Friedlander, City Prosecutor, W. V. Cowan and U.S. Webb, Attorney-General, for Respondent.

JUDGES: In Bank. Myers, C. J. Lawlor, J., Richards, J., Seawell, J., Lennon, J., Waste, J., and Shenk, J., concurred.


MYERS, Judge

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[227 P. 909] The petitioner is in the custody of the sheriff in the county of Sacramento by virtue of an order made by the superior court of that county adjudging him in contempt of court, imposing a fine, and providing, in default of payment, for imprisonment at the rate of one day for each two dollars of the fine. The conduct which was charged as a contempt was the alleged violation of an injunction pendente lite issued out of that court in an action wherein the state of California, on the relation of the attorney-general, was plaintiff and the Industrial Workers of the World et al. were defendants. The injunction commanded the defendants, and each of them, their servants, agents, solicitors, attorneys, and all others acting in their aid or assistance, to "desist and refrain from further conspiring with each other to carry out, and from carrying out, or attempting to carry out, their conspiracy to injure, destroy and damage property in the state of California, and to take over and assume possession of the

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industries and properties in said state as well as the government thereof; and from knowingly circulating, selling, distributing, and displaying books, pamphlets, papers or other written or printed matter advocating, teaching or suggesting criminal syndicalism, sabotage or the destruction of property for the purpose of taking over the industries and properties of all employers, or otherwise, and from advocating, by word of mouth or writing the necessity, propriety and expediency of criminal syndicalism or sabotage, direct action, willful damage or injury to physical property and bodily injury to person or persons, and justifying or attempting to justify criminal syndicalism, the commission or attempt to commit crime, sabotage, violence or unlawful methods of terrorism with the intent to approve, advocate or further the doctrine of criminal syndicalism, as said terms 'Criminal Syndicalism' and 'Sabotage' are defined in Chapter 188 of the Statutes and Amendments to the Code of the State of California, for 1919, and from organizing or [227 P. 910] aiding or assisting to organize or extend or increase any society, assemblage or association of persons which teaches, advocates, aids and abets criminal syndicalism or the duty, necessity or propriety of committing crime, sabotage, violence or any unlawful method of terrorism as a means of accomplishing a change in industrial ownership or control, or effecting any political change, and from doing any acts to carry out the doctrines, theories and acts of criminal syndicalism and from in any manner whatsoever conspiring or confederating together for the carrying out of said purposes, or either thereof,. . ." The petitioner was arrested, charged with being a member and delegate of the Industrial Workers of the World, was served with a citation to show cause upon affidavits charging him with having knowingly violated the injunction and order of the court, and appeared in response to the citation upon the return day thereof, when a hearing was had thereon. He was found guilty of the acts charged in the affidavits, adjudged in contempt of court, and in default of the payment of the fine imposed was committed to the custody of the sheriff. It is petitioner's contention that his imprisonment is illegal, upon the grounds, first, that the injunction is invalid and that petitioner, therefore, cannot be held for disobedience

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thereof, and, secondly, that the affidavits upon which the citation was issued are insufficient.

In support of petitioner's contention that the injunction herein is void he asserts that a court of equity has no criminal jurisdiction and cannot enjoin the commission of a crime, that the issuance of the injunction herein was an infringement of the province of the legislature, and that a court of equity will not and cannot enjoin a publication.

It is to be noted that the acts forbidden by the terms of the injunction here in question are, substantially speaking, the precise acts which are denounced as crimes by the provisions of the Criminal Syndicalism Act. (Stats. 1919, p. 281, c. 188.) Petitioner's contention in this behalf, speaking broadly, is that jurisdiction in equity is and has always been limited strictly to the civil side of jurisprudence; that this jurisdiction exists and may be invoked solely for the protection of private property rights; that the enforcement of criminal statutes is and has always been beyond the scope of equity jurisdiction; that the sole purpose and effect of the injunction here in question is to take away from one charged with the commission of these particular crimes his constitutional right to a trial by jury, and that the injunction is therefore void as being wholly in excess of the jurisdiction of the court which issued it.

It is doubtless true that jurisdiction in equity is primarily concerned with the protection of civil property rights in those cases wherein the law has failed to provide an adequate remedy. But it is not and never has been strictly limited to this field. As far back as the reign of Henry I it was recognized that the select council (predecessors of the chancellor) would act "on all applications to obtain redress for injuries and acts of oppression wherever from the heinousness of the offense or the rank and power of the offender, or any other cause, it was probable that a fair trial in the ordinary courts would be impeded, and also wherever by force and violence the regular administration of justice was hindered." (1 Pomeroy's Equity Jurisprudence, 4th ed., pp. 35, 36.) The power and jurisdiction of equity to enjoin the maintenance of a public nuisance have always been recognized, even where the same was abatable by indictment or information and where the maintenance thereof constituted a statutory crime.

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It is true, as a general rule, that an injunction will not be granted to restrain an act merely criminal, where no property rights are endangered thereby, but where property rights are endangered, the fact that the acts are criminal will not prevent a court of equity from exercising its jurisdiction. (Pierce v. Stablemen's Union, 156 Cal. 70-73 [103 P. 324] .) It is not in all cases essential that the property rights so endangered be private property rights of the party plaintiff. "As a public nuisance concerns the public generally, it is the duty of the government to take measures to abate or enjoin it. Hence it follows that the government can obtain an injunction to restrain a public nuisance without showing any property right in itself. The duty of protecting the property rights of all its citizens is sufficient to warrant issuing the injunction." (5 Pomeroy's Equity Jurisprudence, 4th ed., p. 4296; see, also, People v. Truckee Lumber Co., 116 Cal. 397, 402 [58 Am. St. Rep. 183, 39 L. R. A. 581, 48 P. 374]; Weis v. Superior Court, 30 Cal.App. 730 [159 P. 464] .) We think that the correct rule is well stated by Professor Pomeroy in the following passage from section 1894:

" While the right of the government to obtain an injunction to restrain criminal acts is not confined strictly to cases of nuisance, it would seem that it should be limited to cases closely analogous. Such relief, if applied to criminal acts in general, would supersede the criminal law and deprive parties of the right to a jury trial. Where the property rights of many citizens are involved, it is proper for the government, on their behalf, to invoke the powers of equity, and it would seem that only in such a case should the jurisdiction be assumed."

Petitioner asserts that "if the superior court of Sacramento County can issue an injunction to supersede the criminal syndicalism law, it can enjoin the violation of any other penal statute. It might issue an injunction forbidding the commission of burglary within the county." This assertion involves both a false premise and a non sequitur. [227 P. 911] The injunction herein does not supersede the Criminal Syndicalism Act. It rather supplements it. That act remains in full force and effect, in no way modified, qualified, limited, or superseded by the injunction. It does not at all follow that if equity may properly enjoin the acts

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denounced by the criminal syndicalism law, that it may also enjoin the commission of burglary. It may be conceded that a court of equity would have no power to enjoin the commission of a burglary merely because it is a crime. But it is well settled that an injunction may issue to restrain the commission of acts which are violative of public policy, which create a nuisance or assail the rights of property, although such acts are specific crimes and punishable as such. (Pierce v. Stablemen's Union, supra; People v. Truckee Lumber Co., supra; Herald v. Glendale Lodge No. 1289, 46 Cal.App. 325 [189 P. 329]; People v. Peterson, 45...

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