Caha v. United States

Decision Date05 March 1894
Docket NumberNo. 1,001,1,001
Citation14 S.Ct. 513,152 U.S. 211,38 L.Ed. 415
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Fred. Beael, Henry E. Asp, L. T. Michener, and W. W. Dudley, for plaintiff in error.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Whitney, for the United States.

Mr. Justice BREWER delivered the opinion of the court.

This case comes on error from the district court of the United States for the district of Kansas. On March 31, 1893, plaintiff in error, having been found guilty of the crime of perjury by the verdict of a jury, was sentenced to confinement in the Kansas state penitentiary for a term of two years, and to pay a fine of $10.

The questions are these: The indictment was returned September 22, 1892. It in two counts charged the defendant with the crime of perjury, committed on January 3, 1890, in the land office at Kingfisher, Okl., in falsely testifying that he was on a sand bar in the South Canadian river at 12 o'clock noon on the 22d of April, 1889; that this false testimony was given in a contest then pending in the land office, in which one Thomas Burch contested defendant's homestead entry on the ground that he had violated the act of congress of March 2, 1889, and the president's proclamation, by entering upon and occupying the lands opened to settlement under such proclamation prior to 12 o'clock noon of the day named therein, to wit, April 22, 1889.

The two counts are similar, the only material difference being that in the first count the oath is charged to have been administered by J. V. Admire, the receiver of the land office, and in the second by J. C. Roberts, the register of the land office; each being, as averred, authorized to administer the oath by the laws of the United States and the regulations of the land office. To this indictment a demurrer was presented, which, after argument, was overruled, and the first matter for consideration is this ruling. The grounds of the demurrer still insisted upon are First, that the court had no jurisdiction over the alleged offense; and, secondly, that the indictment stated no public offense.

As to the first of these grounds: It is not disputed that the district court of Kansas had, at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, jurisdiction generally of offenses against the criminal laws of the United States committed in the country known as Oklahoma, the place where this offense is charged to have been committed; but, on, the 2d of May, 1890, congress passed an act creating the territory of Oklahoma. 26 Stat. 81. In section 9 is found this provision:

'Each of the said district courts shall have and exercise, exclusive of any courts heretofore established, the same jurisdiction in all cases arising under the constitution and laws of the United States as is vested in the circuit and district courts of the United States. * * * All acts and parts of acts heretofore enacted, conferring jurisdiction upon United States courts held beyond and outside of the limits of the territory of Oklahoma as herein defined, as to all causes of action or offences in said territory, and in that portion of the Cherokee Outlet hereinbefore referred to, are hereby repealed, and such jurisdiction is hereby given to the supreme and district courts in said territory; but all actions commenced in such courts, and crimes committed in said teritory and in the Cherokee Outlet, prior to the passage of this act, shall be tried and prosecuted, and proceeded with until finally disposed of, in the courts now having jurisiction thereof, as if this act had not been passed.'

The contention is that by this section jurisdiction was given to the district courts of Oklahoma; the indictment not having been found until September, 1892, and the reservation of jurisdiction to the Kansas court being limited to the cases in which prosecutions had already been commenced. We do not so understand the provision. The general grant of jurisdiction to the Oklahoma courts is prospective in its operation. Such is the ordinary rule of construction, and the repeal of the act vesting jurisdiction in the Kansas court is limited by a proviso which includes not only 'actions commenced,' but 'crimes committed.' Counsel lay stress upon the words 'having jurisdiction thereof,' and argue that courts have no jurisdiction of crimes, but only of actions for the punishment of crimes. But this is placing too much stress upon a subordinate part of the sentence. If the scope of the sentence be as thus contended for, the words 'crimes committed' are superfluous, and it would have been sufficient to have said, 'all actions commenced in such courts prior to the passage of this act,' etc. For the word 'actions' may include both civil and criminal proceedings. But congress went further, and provided, not only that all 'actions commenced in such courts,' but also that all 'crimes committed in said territory' prior to the passage of the act should be 'tried, prosecuted, and proceeded with until finally disposed of.' Grammatically, 'crimes committed in said territory' is an independent nominative, and refers to matters different from those embraced within the term 'actions commenced in such courts.' It is fair, under such cases, in order to determine the meaning, to omit the one nominative and read the sentence as though the other only were present; and so it will read, 'all crimes committed in said territory prior to the passage of this act shall be tried, prosecuted, and proceeded with until finally disposed of in the courts now having jurisdiction thereof, as if this act had not been passed.' So reading, the meaning cannot be doubtful. Whatever of jurisdiction the district court of Kansas had at the time of the alleged offense remained unaffected by the act of May 2, 1890.

Neither can it be doubted that the district court of Kansas had jurisdiction over a prosecution for the crime of perjury committed at the place named in violation of the provisions of section 5392, Rev. St. That section—and under it this indictment was found—reads as follows:

'Every person who, having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed is true, wilfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true, is guilty of perjury.'

This statute is one of universal application within the territorial limits of the United States, and is not limited to those portions which are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the national government, such as the District of Columbia. Generally speaking, within any state of this Union the preservation of the peace and the protection of person and property are the functions of the state government, and are no part of the primary duty, at least, of the nation. The laws of congress in respect to those matters do not extend into the territorial limits of the states, but have force only in the District of Columbia, and other places that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the national goverment. It was in reference to such body of laws that section 2145, Rev. St., was enacted, and the argument which is sought to be drawn by the counsel therefrom against the jurisdiction of the district court of Kansas has no foundation.

It is enough that section 5392 has uniform application throughout the territorial limits of the United States; that by section 563 the district courts are given jurisdiction generally 'of all crimes and offences cognizable under the authority of the United States committed within their respective districts;' and that, by section 2, c. 13, (22 Stat. 400,) the territory in question was annexed to and made a part of the United States judicial district of Kansas.

Neither is it necessary to consider whether section 5 of chapter 116 (11 Stat. 250) remained in force after the Revision of 1873. The first three sections of that chapter were reenacted in the Revised Statutes; the fifth was omitted, and there is some discussion in the briefs as to whether, under sections 5595 and 5596, Rev. St., said section 5 still remains in force. But, as we said, it is unnecessary to enter into such a discussion. The indictment was returned under section 5392, and its sufficiency is to be determined by the provisions of that section.

Do the facts stated in this indictment constitute an offense under that section? It will be remembered that the perjury is charged to have been committed in a contest in the land office in respect to the validity of a homestead entry, the oath having been administered by one or other of the land officers before whom the contest was carried on. And the contention is that the statute makes no provision for such a contest before those officers,—that, as the statute does not authorize any such contest, it cannot be said that the oath was taken in a 'case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered.' If such a contest before the local land officers is not in terms provided for, it is certainly recognized in the statutes. Section 2273, Rev. St., is as follows:

'When two or more persons settle on the same tract of land, the right of pre-emption shall be in him who made the first settlement provided such person conforms to the other provision of the law; and all questions as to the right of pre-emption arising between different settlers shall be determined by the register and receiver of the district within which the land is situated; and appears from the decision of district officers, in cases of contest for the right of pre-emption, shall be made to the commissioner of the general land office, whose decision shall be final, unless appeal therefrom be taken to the secretary of the interior.'

Obviously, here is expressly authorized a contest before...

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