293 U.S. 131 (1934), 15, McNally v. Hill

Docket NºNo. 15
Citation293 U.S. 131, 55 S.Ct. 24, 79 L.Ed. 238
Party NameMcNally v. Hill
Case DateNovember 05, 1934
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 131

293 U.S. 131 (1934)

55 S.Ct. 24, 79 L.Ed. 238

McNally

v.

Hill

No. 15

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 5, 1934

Argued October 12, 1934

CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

1. A prisoner who had been convicted and sentenced on three counts of an indictment, the sentence on the first count running concurrently with that on the second, and the sentence on the second and third counts running consecutively, petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting the invalidity of the conviction and sentence on the third count, and assigning as reason for the granting of the writ that consideration by the Parole Board of any application for a parole was precluded as a result of the void sentence. It was conceded that the sentence on the second count, the validity of which was not challenged, had not expired, and that service of sentence on the third had not yet begun. Held that, as the detention under the sentence on the second count was lawful, the writ of habeas corpus could not be used to inquire into the validity of the conviction under the third count. P. 135.

2. The meaning of the term habeas corpus and the appropriate use of the writ in the federal courts must be ascertained by reference to

Page 132

the common law and to the decisions of this Court interpreting and applying the common law principles which define its use when authorized by the statute. P. 136.

3. The Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, 31 Car. II, c. 2, and the decisions of the English courts interpreting it have been accepted by this Court as authoritative guides in defining the principles which control the use of the writ in the federal courts. P. 136.

4. The writ of habeas corpus may not be used in the federal courts as a means of securing the judicial decision of a question which, even if determined in the prisoner's favor, could not result in his immediate release. P. 136.

5. A sentence which the prisoner has not begun to serve cannot be the cause of restraint which the statute makes subject to judicial inquiry. P. 137.

6. This Court has consistently refused, wherever the issue has been presented, to review upon habeas corpus questions which do not concern the lawfulness of the detention. P. 139.

69 F.2d 38 affirmed.

Certiorari, 292 U.S. 619, to review a judgment affirming a judgment dismissing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Page 133

STONE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Certiorari, 292 U.S. 619, brings this case here for review of a judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals directing dismissal, on the merits, of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to be imprisoned upon two indictments framed under the Conspiracy Act of May 17, 1879, c. 8, 21 Stat. 4, as amended by Act of March 4, 1909, c. 321, § 37, 35 Stat. 1088, 1096, U.S.C. Title 18, § 88, and the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act of October 29, 1919, c. 89, 41 Stat. 324, 325, U.S.C. Title 18, § 408. The indictment which alone need be considered here was in three counts: the first charged petitioner and others with conspiracy to violate the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Theft Act; the second, the interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle, and the third, which is assailed here, the violation of § 4 of the Motor Vehicle Theft Act by the sale in New Jersey of a motor vehicle which had been stolen in New York, "knowing that the vehicle had been so stolen and transported in interstate commerce." Petitioner was sentenced for a term of two years on the first count and for terms of four years each on the second and third counts, the sentence on the first to run concurrently with that on the second, the sentence on the second and third to run consecutively. Service of sentence was begun on November 30, 1931. It is conceded that the

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sentence on the second count, less allowances for good behavior, has not expired, and that service of sentence on the third has not yet begun.

On April 6, 1933, the petitioner filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus in the District Court for the Middle district of Pennsylvania. He assailed the conviction and sentence on the third count as void. No attack was made on the conviction and sentence on the other counts, but the petition advanced as reasons for granting the writ that, under the Parole Act of June 25, 1910, c. 387, § 1, 36 Stat. 819, as amended by the Act of January 23, 1913, c. 9, 37 Stat. 650, U.S.C. Tit. 18, § 714, petitioner was eligible to apply for parole, to be granted, in the discretion of the parole board, after serving one-third of his sentence; that he had served one-third or more of the valid sentence on the first and second counts, but less than one-third of the total period of imprisonment to which he had been sentenced on the three counts, and that consideration by the parole board of any application for his parole was precluded by reason of the outstanding, but void, sentence on the third count.

Numerous objections to the validity of the conviction was sentence under the third count were urged either in the District Court or the Circuit Court of Appeals. The only one considered by the Circuit Court of Appeals was that the third count was void because it failed to charge the petitioner, in conformity to the words of § 4 of the statute, with having sold a stolen motor vehicle "moving as, or which is a part of, or which constitutes interstate or foreign commerce," but had charged him instead with knowingly selling a stolen motor vehicle which "had theretofore been transported in interstate commerce;" that it had thus failed to charge an offense against the United States since it appeared that the motor [55 S.Ct. 26] vehicle at the time of the sale, had ceased to be the subject of interstate commerce.

Page 135

The Circuit Court of Appeals did not consider whether the writ of habeas corpus could rightly be used to test the validity of the sentence on the third count, while the petitioner was in lawful custody under the sentence on the second, or whether the writ was improperly used as an attempted substitute for an appeal from the judgment of conviction. It contented itself with passing upon the sufficiency of the indictment, and held that the act of sale charged was so closely related to the interstate transportation of the motor vehicle as to constitute the federal offense defined by the statute. It accordingly treated the alleged defects in the indictment as no more than formal, and affirmed the order of the District Court dismissing the petition. 69 F.2d 38.

We find it unnecessary to consider the questions raised or decided below, which the petitioner presses here. We conclude that, as it appears from the petition that the detention of petitioner is lawful under the sentence on the second count, there is no occasion, in a habeas corpus proceeding, for inquiry into the validity of his conviction under the third.

The use of the writ of habeas corpus as an incident of the federal judicial power is implicitly recognized by Article I, § 9, cl. 2, of the Constitution, which provides:

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspend, unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

The Justices of this Court and judges of the district courts were expressly given power to issue the writ by § 14 of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789, 1 Stat. 73, 81, 82, now...

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514 practice notes
  • Why only Gideon? Martinez v. Ryan and the "equitable" right to counsel in habeas corpus.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 80 Nbr. 3, June - June 2015
    • June 22, 2015
    ...(describing the writ as the judicial vehicle for "securing to the petitioners their constitutional rights"); McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 136 (1934) (describing the writ as the mechanism "by which the legality of the detention of one in the custody of another [court] could ......
  • A reasoning-process review model for federal habeas corpus.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 94 Nbr. 4, June 2004
    • June 22, 2004
    ...law" and it thus conferred full authority to federal courts to adjudicate federal claims anew). (23) See, e.g., McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 138 (1934); Ash v. United States ex rel. Valotta, 270 U.S. 424, 426 (1926); Knewel v. Egan, 268 U.S. 442, 446 (1925); Henry v. Henkel, 235 U.S.......
  • 67 J. Kan. Bar Assn. February, 16 (1998). HABEAS CORPUS IN KANSAS THE GREAT WRIT AFFORDS POSTCONVICTION RELIEF AT K.S.A. 60.1507.
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Journal Nbr. 1998, January 1998
    • January 1, 1998
    ...54, 88 S. Ct. 1549, 20 L. Ed 2d 426 (1968). [FN69]. King v. State, 195 Kan. 736, 408 P.2d 599 (1965). [FN70]. McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 55 S. Ct. 24, 79 L. Ed. 238 (1934). The King court also relied upon language in Rule 121(c), which then established procedures for......
  • The untold story of noncriminal habeas corpus and the 1996 Immigration Acts.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 107 Nbr. 8, June 1998
    • June 1, 1998
    ...(58.) See supra note 51 and accompanying text. (59.) See supra note 50 and accompanying text. (60.) See, e.g., McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 137-38 (1934) (stating that the English authorities before 1789 showed no instances of the writ's use to overturn criminal convictions). (61.) 372 U.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
508 cases
  • 738 F.3d 1253 (11th Cir. 2013), 12-11212, Bryant v. Warden, FCC Coleman-Medium
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • December 24, 2013
    ...If the legal error proved by the petitioner did not render her current custody illegal, she had no remedy. See, e.g., McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 138, 55 S.Ct. 24, 27, 79 L.Ed. 238 (1934), overruled by Peyton, 391 U.S. at 67, 88 S.Ct. at 1556. Conversely, if the error complained of showe......
  • 648 F.2d 135 (3rd Cir. 1981), 79-2466, Lehman v. Lycoming County Children's Services Agency
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • March 31, 1981
    ...ad subjiciendum by which the legality of the detention of one in the custody of another could be tested judicially. McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 136, 55 S.Ct. 24, 26, 79 L.Ed. 238 (1934). In its classic form the writ was directed to the disposition of the custody of a prisoner. Bacon, in ......
  • 372 U.S. 391 (1963), 84, Fay v. Noia
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • March 18, 1963
    .... as an incident of the federal judicial power is implicitly recognized by Article I, § 9, Clause 2 of the Constitution. McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 135. (Italics supplied.) To the same effect are the words of Chief Justice Chase in Ex parte Yerger, 8 Wall. 85, 95: "The terms of thi......
  • 399 F.Supp. 956 (W.D.Wis. 1975), 74-C-235, Cravatt v. Thomas
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Western District of Wisconsin
    • August 22, 1975
    ...issuance of the writ would result in an immediate discharge of the petitioner from every aspect of physical imprisonment. McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 55 S.Ct. 24, 79 L.Ed. 238 (1934). That rule has gradually been eroded, 6 and in Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483, 89 S.Ct. 747, 21 L.Ed.2d 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • Why only Gideon? Martinez v. Ryan and the "equitable" right to counsel in habeas corpus.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 80 Nbr. 3, June - June 2015
    • June 22, 2015
    ...(describing the writ as the judicial vehicle for "securing to the petitioners their constitutional rights"); McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 136 (1934) (describing the writ as the mechanism "by which the legality of the detention of one in the custody of another [court] could ......
  • A reasoning-process review model for federal habeas corpus.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 94 Nbr. 4, June 2004
    • June 22, 2004
    ...law" and it thus conferred full authority to federal courts to adjudicate federal claims anew). (23) See, e.g., McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 138 (1934); Ash v. United States ex rel. Valotta, 270 U.S. 424, 426 (1926); Knewel v. Egan, 268 U.S. 442, 446 (1925); Henry v. Henkel, 235 U.S.......
  • 67 J. Kan. Bar Assn. February, 16 (1998). HABEAS CORPUS IN KANSAS THE GREAT WRIT AFFORDS POSTCONVICTION RELIEF AT K.S.A. 60.1507.
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Journal Nbr. 1998, January 1998
    • January 1, 1998
    ...54, 88 S. Ct. 1549, 20 L. Ed 2d 426 (1968). [FN69]. King v. State, 195 Kan. 736, 408 P.2d 599 (1965). [FN70]. McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 55 S. Ct. 24, 79 L. Ed. 238 (1934). The King court also relied upon language in Rule 121(c), which then established procedures for......
  • The untold story of noncriminal habeas corpus and the 1996 Immigration Acts.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 107 Nbr. 8, June 1998
    • June 1, 1998
    ...(58.) See supra note 51 and accompanying text. (59.) See supra note 50 and accompanying text. (60.) See, e.g., McNally v. Hill, 293 U.S. 131, 137-38 (1934) (stating that the English authorities before 1789 showed no instances of the writ's use to overturn criminal convictions). (61.) 372 U.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results