273 U.S. 510 (1927), 527, Tumey v. Ohio

Docket Nº:No. 527
Citation:273 U.S. 510, 47 S.Ct. 437, 71 L.Ed. 749
Party Name:Tumey v. Ohio
Case Date:March 07, 1927
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 510

273 U.S. 510 (1927)

47 S.Ct. 437, 71 L.Ed. 749




No. 527

United States Supreme Court

March 7, 1927

Argued November 29, 30, 1926



1. To subject a defendant to trial in a criminal case involving his liberty or property before a judge having a direct, personal, substantial interest in convicting him is a denial of due process of law. P. 522.

2. A system by which an inferior judge is paid for his service only when he convicts the defendant has not become so customary in the common law or in this country that it can be regarded as due process where the costs usually imposed are not so small as to be within the maxim de minimis non curat lex. Pp. 523, 531.

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3. Under statutes of Ohio, offenses against State prohibition, involving a wide range of fines enforceable by imprisonment, may be tried without a jury, before the mayor of any rural village situate in the county (however populous) in which offenses occur; his judgment upon the facts is final and conclusive unless so clearly unsupported as to indicate mistake, bias, or willful disregard of duty; the fines are divided between the State and village; the village, by means of the fines collected, hires attorneys and detectives to arrest alleged offenders anywhere in the county and prosecute them before the mayor; in addition to his salary, the mayor, when he convicts, but not otherwise, receive his fees and cost amounting to a substantial income; the fine offer a means of adding materially to the financial prosperity of the village, for which the mayor, in his executive capacity, is responsible. Held violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 520, 531.

115 Oh.St. 701, reversed.

ERROR to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Ohio which declined to review a judgment of the State Court of Appeals, 22 Oh.L.Rep. 634, reversing a judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County, 25 Oh.Nisi Prius (N.S.) 580, which reversed a judgment of the Mayor of the Village of North College Hill convicting and fining Tumey for violation of the Ohio Prohibition Act and ordering that he be imprisoned until the fine and costs were paid.

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TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether certain statutes of Ohio, in providing for the trial by the mayor of a village of one accused of violating the Prohibition Act of the State, deprive the accused of due process of law and violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution

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because of the pecuniary and other interest which those statutes give the mayor in the result of the trial.

Tumey, the plaintiff in error, hereafter to be called the defendant, was arrested and brought before Mayor Pugh, of the Village of North College Hill, charged with unlawfully possessing intoxicating liquor. He moved for his dismissal because of the disqualification of the Mayor to try him, under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Mayor denied the motion, proceeded to the trial, convicted the defendant of unlawfully possessing intoxicating liquor within Hamilton County, as charged, fined him $100, and ordered that he be imprisoned until the fine and costs were paid. He obtained a bill of exceptions and carried the case on error to the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County. That court heard the case and reversed the judgment on the ground that the Mayor was disqualified, as claimed. 25 Ohio Nisi Prius (N.S.) 580. The State sought review by the Court of Appeals of the first appellate district of Ohio, which reversed the Common Pleas and affirmed the judgment of the Mayor. 23 Ohio Law Reporter, 634.

On May 4, 1926, the State Supreme Court refused defendant's application to require the Court of Appeals to certify its record in the case. The defendant then filed a petition in error in that court as of right, asking that the judgment of the Mayor's Court and of the Appellate Court be reversed on constitutional grounds. On May 11, 1926, the Supreme Court adjudged that the petition be dismissed for the reason that no debatable constitutional question was involved in the cause. The judgment was then brought here upon a writ of error allowed by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, to which it was rightly directed. Matthews v. Huwe, Treasurer, 269 U.S. 262; Hetrick v. Village of Lindsey, 265 U.S. 384. This brings us to the merits of the case.

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The defendant was arrested and charged [47 S.Ct. 439] with the unlawful possession of intoxicating liquor at White Oak, another village in Hamilton County, Ohio, on a warrant issued by the Mayor of North College Hill. The Mayor acted under the sections of the State Prohibition Act, and Ordinance No. 125 of the Village of North College Hill adopted in pursuance thereof.

Section 6212-15 (Ohio General Code) provides that "No person shall after the passage of this act manufacture possess . . . any intoxicating liquors. . . ."

Section 6212-17 provides that

. . . any person who violates the provisions of this act (General Code, Sections 6212-13 to 6212-20) for a first offense shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars; for a second offense he shall be fined not less than three hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars; for a third and each subsequent offense he shall be fined not less than five hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars and be imprisoned in the state penitentiary not less than one year nor more than five years. . . .

The Mayor has authority, which he exercised in this case, to order that the person sentenced to pay a fine shall remain in prison until the fine and costs are paid. At the time of this sentence, the prisoner received a credit of sixty cents a day for each day's imprisonment. By a recent amendment, that credit has been increased to one dollar and a half a day. Sections 13716, 13717, Ohio Gen.Code.

Section 62118 provides, in part, that

Any justice of the peace, mayor, municipal or police judge, probate or common pleas judge within the county with whom the affidavit is filed charging a violation of any of the provisions of this act (G.C. Sections 6212-13 to 6212-20) when the offense is alleged to have been committed in the county in which such mayor, justice of the peace, or judge

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may be sitting, shall have final jurisdiction to try such cases upon such affidavits without a jury, unless imprisonment is a part of the penalty, but error may be prosecuted to the judgment of such mayor, justice of the peace, or judge as herein provided.

Error from the Mayor's Court lies to the court of Common Pleas of the County, and a bill of exceptions is necessary to present questions arising on the evidence. Sections 10359, 10361, Ohio General Code. The appellate review in respect of evidence is such that the judgment can only be set aside by the reviewing court on the ground that it is so clearly unsupported by the weight of the evidence as to indicate some misapprehension or mistake or bias on the part of the trial court, or a willful disregard of duties. Datesh v. State, 23 Ohio Nisi Prius (N.S.) 273.

Section 6212-19 provides that

Money arising from fines and forfeited bonds shall be paid one-half into the state treasury credited to the general revenue fund, one-half to the treasury of the township, municipality or county where the prosecution is held, according as to whether the officer hearing the case is a township, municipal, or county officer.

Section 6212-37 provides that

The council of any city or village may by ordinance authorize the use of any part of the fines collected for the violation of any law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors, for the purpose of hiring attorneys, detectives. or secret service officers to secure the enforcement of such prohibition law. And such council are hereby authorized to appropriate not more than five hundred dollars annually from the general revenue funds for the purpose of enforcing the law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors, when there are no funds available from the fines collected for the violation of such prohibitory law.

Under the authority of the last section, the Village Council of North College Hill passed Ordinance No. 125, as follows:

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An ordinance to provide for compensation to be paid from the secret service funds of the Village of North College Hill, Hamilton County, Ohio, created by authority of Section 62137, of the General Code of Ohio, to detectives, secret service officers, deputy marshals' and attorneys' fees, costs, etc., for services in securing evidence necessary to conviction and prosecuting violation of the law of the state of Ohio prohibiting the liquor traffic.

Be it ordained by the Council of the Village of North College Hill, Hamilton County, Ohio:

Section I. That fifty percent of all moneys hereafter paid into the treasury of said village of North College Hill, Ohio, that is one-half of the share of all fines collected and paid into and belonging to said village of North College Hill, Ohio, received from fines collected under any law of the state of Ohio prohibiting the liquor traffic, shall constitute a separate fund to be called the Secret Service Fund to be used for the purpose of securing the enforcement of any prohibition law.

Section II. That deputy marshals of the village of North College Hill, Ohio, shall receive as compensation for their services in securing the evidence necessary to secure the conviction of persons violating the law of the state of Ohio, prohibiting the liquor traffic, an amount of money equal to 15 percent. of the fine collected, and other fees allowed by law.

Section II. That the attorney at law of record prosecuting persons charged with violating the law of the state of Ohio, prohibiting the liquor traffic, shall receive...

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