287 U.S. 241 (1932), 19, Ex Parte United States

Docket Nº:No.19, original
Citation:287 U.S. 241, 53 S.Ct. 129, 77 L.Ed. 283
Party Name:Ex Parte United States
Case Date:December 05, 1932
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 241

287 U.S. 241 (1932)

53 S.Ct. 129, 77 L.Ed. 283

Ex Parte United States

No.19, original

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 5, 1932

Argued November 7, 1932



1. This Court has full power in its discretion to issue the writ of mandamus to a federal district court, although the case be one in respect of which direct appellate jurisdiction is vested in the circuit court of appeals, this Court having ultimate discretionary jurisdiction by certiorari, but such power will be exercised only where a question of public importance is involved, or where the question is of such a nature that it is peculiarly appropriate that such action by this Court should be taken. Pp. 245, 248.

2. Application by the Government for a mandamus to require a federal district court to issue a bench warrant upon an indictment regularly found and fair on its face held within the appellate jurisdiction of this Court. P. 249.

3. A district court, when asked by the Government to issue a bench warrant upon an indictment fair on its face and returned to it by its duly constituted grand jury, has no discretion to refuse. P. 249.

4. In the court to which the indictment is returned, the finding of an indictment, fair upon its face, by a properly constituted grand jury conclusively determines the existence of probable cause for the purpose of holding the accused to answer. P. 250.

Mandamus granted.

Petition for a writ of mandamus requiring a District Court and its judge to set aside an order denying an application for a bench warrant. An opinion of the court below is reported sub nom. United States v. Wingert, 55 F.2d 960. The hearing in this Court was upon the petition and the return to an order to show cause.

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SUTHERLAND, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an application for a writ of mandamus requiring the federal District Judge sitting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Page 245

and the court itself to set aside an order denying a petition of the United States attorney for the issue of a bench warrant for the arrest of Joseph V. Wingert (see United States v. Wingert, 55 F.2d 960), and directing that such bench warrant be issued. The case is here for decision upon the return of the court and judge to a rule to show cause why the application for the writ should not be granted. The facts follow.

On March 10, 1932, a grand jury for the district, duly impaneled, returned an indictment against Wingert, charging him with violating certain provisions of the banking laws of the United States. No question is raised as to the regularity of the proceedings before the grand jury, or as to the sufficiency of the indictment. On March 22, the United States attorney presented to the court a written petition praying that a bench warrant issue for Wingert's arrest. The District Court, with nothing before it, so far as the record discloses, but the petition and the indictment, denied the petition and refused to issue the warrant. The sole ground alleged in the return for such denial is that the matter was within the judicial discretion of the court, and therefore not subject to mandamus proceedings.

[53 S.Ct. 130] 1. It first is necessary to determine whether, under these facts, we have jurisdiction to issue the writ. Section 716, Rev.Stats. (§ 262 of the Judicial Code, U.S.C. Title 28, § 377), provides that this Court and other federal courts

shall have power to issue all writs not specifically provided for by statute, which may be necessary for the exercise of their respective jurisdictions, and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.

As early as 1831 it was settled that this Court had power to issue a mandamus directed to a federal Circuit Court commanding that court to sign a bill of exceptions, such action being in the nature of appellate jurisdiction. In re Crane, 5 Pet.190, 193. In Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 175, it was held

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that to warrant the issue of a mandamus by this Court, in cases where original jurisdiction had not been conferred by the Constitution (see Kentucky v. Dennison, 24 How. 66, 9), it must be shown to be an exercise of appellate jurisdiction, or to be necessary to enable the court to exercise its appellate jurisdiction. McClellan v. Carland, 217 U.S. 268, 280, laid down the general rule applicable both to this Court and to the Circuit Courts of Appeals, that the power to issue the writ under R.S. § 716 is not limited to cases where its issue is required in aid of a jurisdiction already obtained, but that,

where a case is within the appellate jurisdiction of the higher court, a writ of mandamus may issue in aid of the appellate jurisdiction which might otherwise be defeated by the unauthorized action of the court below.

See also Delaware, L. & W. R. Co. v. Rellstab, 276 U.S. 1, 5; In re Babcock, 26 F.2d 153, 155; Barber Asphalt Paving Co. v. Morris, 132 F. 945, 952-956.

Perhaps it would be enough to satisfy the test afforded by these decisions to point to the limited authority of this Court under c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246, U.S.C. Title 18, § 682 (U.S.C. title 28, § 345) to exercise direct appellate jurisdiction to review a decision of the District Court in the possible event that some action of that court might give rise to a right of review at the instance of the government. We prefer, however, to put our determination upon the broader ground that, even if the appellate jurisdiction of this Court could not in any view be immediately and directly invoked, the issue of the...

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