Bowen v. Johnston

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation83 L.Ed. 455,306 U.S. 19,59 S.Ct. 442
Docket NumberNo. 359,359
PartiesBOWEN v. JOHNSTON, Warden, United States Penitentiary, Alcatraz, Cal
Decision Date30 January 1939

306 U.S. 19
59 S.Ct. 442
83 L.Ed. 455


JOHNSTON, Warden, United States Penitentiary, Alcatraz, Cal.

No. 359.
Argued Jan. 11, 1939.
Decided Jan. 30, 1939.

[Syllabus from pages 19-21 intentionally omitted]

Page 21

Seth W. Richardson, of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Bates Booth, of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was convicted, in 1933, in the District Court of the Northern District of Georgia, of murder committed in 1930 on the Government Reservation known as the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park within the exterior limits of the State of Georgia. He was sentenced to imprisonment for life and is confined in the prison at Alcatraz, California.

In 1937, he presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to the District Judge of the Northern District of California alleging that the indictment was void, and no legal judgment could be based thereon, as it failed to show jurisdiction over the person and subject matter; that the United States did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the Park.1 He also alleged that on his trial the court did not have the evidence taken down and preserved so that he might appeal, and that, upon this ground and others, he had been deprived of his liberty without due process of law. A copy of the indictment was annexed to the petition. Pursuant to an order to show cause, the Warden made return showing the judgment and the record of commitment. On the return day there was no appearance of petitioner's attorneys, and no evidence, apart from the return and the attached exhibits, was offered. The petition was submitted and later was de-

Page 22

nied without opinion. On appeal, the order was affirmed. Bowen v. Johnson, 9 Cir., 97 F.2d 860.

The principal contention before the Circuit Court of Appeals was that the United States did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the Park and hence that the District Court in Georgia did not have jurisdiction to try the petitioner. The court, taking the view that the United States could constitutionally acquire jurisdiction over the Park (Collins v. Yosemite Park & C. Co., 304 U.S. 518, 58 S.Ct. 1009, 82 L.Ed. 1502), held that the question whether the United States did acquire such jurisdiction could not be raised on habeas corpus. In view of the importance of the question thus presented, we granted certiorari. October 10, 1938, 305 U.S. 579, 59 S.Ct. 98, 83 L.Ed. —-.

First.—Jurisdiction is conferred upon the District Courts 'of all crimes and offenses cognizable under the authority of the United States'. Jud.Code, sec. 24, 28 U.S.C. § 41(2), 28 U.S.C.A. § 41(2).

Crimes are thus cognizable—

'When committed within or on any lands reserved or acquired for the exclusive use of the United States, and under the exclusive jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine, arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building'. Crim.Code, sec. 272, 18 U.S.C. § 451, Third, 18 U.S.C.A. § 451, subd. 3.

The last clause covers cases where exclusive jurisdiction is acquired by the United States pursuant to Article 1, section 8, clause 17, of the Constitution, U.S.C.A.

In the instant case, no question of fact was presented with respect to the place where the crime was committed. The indictment specified the place, that is,—

'a certain place and on certain lands reserved and acquired for the exclusive use of the United States and under exclusive jurisdiction thereof, and acquired by the United States by consent of the Legislature of the State

Page 23

of Georgia, to wit: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park, sometimes known as Chickmauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, in said State of Georgia'.

The sole question was whether this Park was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. There is no question that the United States had the constitutional power to acquire the territory for the purpose of a national park and that it did acquire it. Whether or not the National Government acquired exclusive jurisdiction over the lands within the Park or the State reserved, as it could, jurisdiction over the crimes there committed, depended upon the terms of the consent or cession given by the legislature of Georgia. Collins v. Yosemite Park Co., supra, pages 529, 530, 58 S.Ct. page 1014. See, also, James v. Dravo Contracting Co., 302 U.S. 134, 146—148, 58 S.Ct. 208, 214, 215, 82 L.Ed. 155, 114 A.L.R. 318. The federal courts take judicial notice of the Georgia statutes. Owings v. Hull, 9 Pet. 607, 9 L.Ed. 246; Lamar v. Micou, 114 U.S. 218, 223, 5 S.Ct. 857, 859, 29 L.Ed. 94. If these statutes did not give to the United States exclusive jurisdiction over the Park, the indictment did not charge a crime cognizable under the authority of the United States.

Second.—Where the District Court has jurisdiction of the person and the subject matter in a criminal prosecution, the writ of habeas corpus cannot be used as a writ of error. The judgment of conviction is not subject to collateral attack. Ex parte Watkins, 3 Pet. 193, 203, 7 L.Ed. 650; Ex parte Parks, 93 U.S. 18, 23, 23 L.Ed. 787; Harlan v. McGourin, 218 U.S. 442, 448, 31 S.Ct. 44, 47, 54 L.Ed. 1101, 21 Ann.Cas. 849; McMicking v. Schields, 238 U.S. 99, 107, 35 S.Ct. 665, 667, 59 L.Ed. 1220; Riddle v. Dyche, 262 U.S. 333, 335, 43 S.Ct. 555, 67 L.Ed. 1009; Craig v. Hecht, 263 U.S. 255, 277, 44 S.Ct. 103, 106, 68 L.Ed. 293. The scope of review on habeas corpus is limited to the examination of the jurisdiction of the court whose judgment of conviction is challenged. Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, 375, 25 L.Ed. 717; Ex parte Bigelow, 113 U.S. 328, 331, 5 S.Ct. 542, 544, 28 L.Ed. 1005; Matter of Gregory, 219 U.S. 210, 213, 31 S.Ct. 143, 55 L.Ed. 184; Glasgow v. Moyer, 225 U.S. 420, 429, 32 S.Ct. 753, 756, 56 L.Ed. 1147; Knewel v. Egan,

Page 24

268 U.S. 442, 445, 45 S.Ct. 522, 524, 69 L.Ed. 1036. But if it be found that the court had no jurisdiction to try the petitioner, or that in its proceedings his constitutional rights have been denied, the remedy of habeas corpus is available. Ex parte Lange, 18 Wall. 163, 178, 21 L.Ed. 872; Ex parte Crow Dog, 109 U.S. 556, 572, 3 S.Ct. 396, 406, 27 L.Ed. 1030; In re Snow, 120 U.S. 274, 285, 7 S.Ct. 556, 561, 30 L.Ed. 658; Ex parte Coy, 127 U.S. 731, 751, 758, 8 S.Ct. 1263, 1268, 1272, 32 L.Ed. 274; Ex parte Hans Nielsen, Petitioner, 131 U.S. 176, 182, 9 S.Ct. 672, 674, 33 L.Ed. 118; In re Bonner, 151 U.S. 242, 257, 14 S.Ct. 323, 325, 38 L.Ed. 149; Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U.S. 86, 91, 43 S.Ct. 265, 266, 67 L.Ed. 543; Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458, 467, 58 S.Ct. 1019, 1024, 82 L.Ed. 1461.

In applying this principle, we have said that the court 'has jurisdiction to render a particular judgment only when the offense charged is within the class of offenses placed by the law under its jurisdiction'. In re Bonner, supra, 14 S.Ct. 325. As it is the duty of the District Court, when the prosecution is brought before it, to examine the charge and ascertain whether the offense is of that class, the District Court is thus empowered to pass upon its own jurisdiction. This, under the applicable statute, may require consideration of the place where the offense is alleged to have been committed. The answer to that question may require the examination and determination of questions of fact and law and that determination may be the appropriate subject of appellate review. Thus, if, construing a statute, a question of law is determined against the Government on...

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