Ex Parte Hollman.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtWOODS
Citation60 S.E. 19,79 S.C. 9
PartiesEx parte HOLLMAN.
Decision Date16 January 1908

60 S.E. 19
79 S.C. 9

Ex parte HOLLMAN.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Jan. 16, 1908.


1. Habeas Corpus—Grounds fob Relief-Constitutionality of Statute.

The constitutionality of a statute under which petitioner is held may be tested on habeas corpus.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see Cent. Dig. vol. 25, Habeas Corpus, § 29.]

2. Courts —Rules of Decision—Stare Decisis.

The doctrine of stare decisis has less force where the constitutional rights of a citizen to his personal liberty are involved than where

[60 S.E. 20]

property rights and the regularity of procedure are involved.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see Cent. Dig. vol. 13, Courts, § 311.]

3. Words and Phrases—"Debt."

A debt is that which is due from one person to another, whether money, goods, or services, and whether payable at present or at a future time.

[Ed. Note.—For other definitions, see Words and Phrases, vol. 2, pp. 1864-1887; vol. 8, p. 7628.]

4. Constitutional Law—Personal Liberty —Imprisonment for Debt.

Cr. Code 1902, § 357, declaring a laborer under contract to labor on farm lands, who shall receive advances, and thereafter willfully and without just cause fail to perform the reasonable service required by the contract, guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable by imprisonment, is in violation of Const, art. 1, § 24, prohibiting imprisonment for debt, except in cases of fraud, since the conduct so made criminal is failure to pay a debt, and a willful and unjust failure to carry out the contract, without bad faith, does not constitute fraud.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see Cent. Dig. vol. 9, Constitutional Law, § 151 1/2.]

5. Same.

Cr. Code 1902, § 357, is in violation of Const, art. 1, § 24, notwithstanding it does not provide for imprisonment for debt under civil process, and the Legislature may make an act criminal and punishable by imprisonment, which is not fraudulent, since the legislative power cannot be extended to an invasion of the rights guaranteed the citizen by the Constitution.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see Cent. Dig. vol. 9, Constitutional Law, § 151 1/2.]

6. Same—Involuntary Servitude.

Cr. Code 1902, § 357, declaring a laborer under contract to labor on farm lands, who shall receive advances and thereafter willfully and without just cause fail to perform the reasonable service required by the contract, guilty of a misdemeanor, is in violation of Const. U. S. Amend. 13, prohibiting slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, and of U. S. Comp. St. 1901. p. 1266, § 1990, enacted pursuant thereto, abolishing peonage.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see Cent. Dig. vol. 10, Constitutional Law, § 151.]

7. Same—Equal Protection of Laws—Reasonable Classification.

Legislation affecting alike all persons of a class is not in violation of Const, art. 1, § 5, or Const. U. S. Amend. 14, prohibiting the denial of the equal protection of the laws, where the classification is not arbitrary, but based on reasonable grounds.

8. Same.

Cr. Code 1902, § 357, declaring a laborer under contract to labor on farm lands, who shall receive advances and thereafter willfully and without just cause fail to perform the reasonable service required by the contract, guilty of a misdemeanor, violates Const, art. 1, § 5, and Const. U. S. Amend. 14, in that it does not bear equally on the landlord and the laborer, the laborer alone being punishable for refusal to perform.

9. Same.

Cr. Code 1902, § 357, declaring a laborer under contract to labor on farm lands, who shall receive advances and thereafter willfully and without just cause fail to perform the reasonable service required by the contract, violates Const, art. 1, § 5, and Const. U. S. Amend. 14, in that the laborer who receives advances and refuses to perform is liable to indictment, and the section makes no provision for him to save himself by the repayment of the advances, while the laborer who abandons his contract, without having received advances, does not fall under the section.

[Ed. Note.—For cases in point, see Cent. Dig. vol. 10, Constitutional Law, §§ 711-713.]

Jones, Klugh, Prince, Hydrick, and Eugene B. Gary, JJ., dissenting in part.

Habeas corpus by Jack Hollman. Prisoner discharged.

R. B. Herbert and Christie Benet, for petitioner.

W. H. Parker, for the State.

WOODS, J. Under habeas corpus proceedings, Jack Hollman has applied to this court for release from imprisonment, alleging the statute under which he was convicted and sentenced to be unconstitutional. The position that the unconstitutionality of a statute cannot be tested under a writ of habeas corpus is maintained by some courts of high authority, but it is opposed to the weight of reason and precedent. There is no difference of opinion that a writ of error, or the statutory appeal, cannot be supplanted in criminal procedure by resort to the writ of habeas corpus for the correction of mere errors of law. But the distinction is that the courts are bound to treat unconstitutional enactments as void in whatever proceedings they may be encountered. An unconstitutional statute, though having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, and the courts must liberate one suffering imprisonment under it just as if there had never been the form of trial, conviction, and sentence. The office of the writ of habeas corpus is to liberate those who are imprisoned without authority of law. While the point was not discussed, this must have been the view of the court in State v. Higgins, 51 S. C. 51, 28 S. E. 15, 38 L. R. A. 561, and Ex parte Keeler, 45 S. C. 537, 23 S. E. 865, 31 L. R. A. 678, 55 Am. St. Rep. 785, for the court considered under habeas corpus the constitutionality of the statutes under which the petitioners were held, and rested its decision in both cases on the determination of that question. This is the view of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ex parte Siebold, 100 U. S. 375, 25 L. Ed. 717; Dimmick v. Tompkins, 194 U. S. 540, 24 Sup. Ct. 780, 48 L Ed. 1110. The numerous other authorities to the same effect will be found collated in 87 Am. St. Rep. 175, note; Hovey v. Elliott, 145 N. Y. 126, 39 N. E. 841, 39 L. R. A. 449; 21 Cyc. 302; 15 A. & E. Enc. 169. We proceed, therefore, to consider the constitutionality of the statute to determine whether the petitioner should be released.

Section 357 of the Criminal Code of 1902, the statute under which the petitioner was convicted, and which is here attacked, is as follows: "Any laborer working on shares of crop or for wages In money or other valuable consideration under a verbal or written contract to labor on farm lands, who shall receive advances either in money or supplies and thereafter willfully and without

[60 S.E. 21]

just cause fail to perform the reasonable service required of him by the terms of the said contract shall be liable to prosecution for a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than twenty days nor more than thirty days, or to be fined in the sum of not more than twenty-five dollars nor more than one hundred dollars in the discretion of the court: Provided, the verbal contract herein referred to shall be witnessed by at least two disinterested witnesses."

The first question is whether this statute violates section 24 of article 1 of the state Constitution, which provides: "No person shall be imprisoned for debt except in cases of fraud." The act refers exclusively to a farm laborer working for a consideration under a contract, who (1) "shall receive advances in money or supplies, and (2) thereafter willfully and without just cause fail to perform the reasonable service required of him by the terms of the said contract. "It will be observed the statute does not require for the completion of the crime, proof of the making of the contract and the obtaining of the advances on the faith of it with the intention formed at the time not to perform the service. Such action as that on the part of the laborer would be fraudulent, and a statute providing for its punishment would not violate a constitutional provision allowing imprisonment for debt in cases of fraud. But the act under consideration provides imprisonment as a punishment for conduct after the contract has been made and the work begun, and the important inquiries are, first, is the conduct so made criminal a failure to pay a debt? and, second, is such conduct consistent with good faith, with entire absence of fraud? If these inquiries are to be answered in the affirmative, then it follows the acts should be declared unconstitutional as providing for imprisonment for debt without proof of fraud. The case of State v. Brewer, 38 S. C. 263, 16 S. E. 1001, 19 L. R. A. 362, 37 Am. St. Rep. 752, holding constitutional the statute authorizing the imprisonment of one convicted of bastardy who fails to give the bond required by law, has no application, for the court expressly held the penalty not to be a debt, but a punishment for the crime of bastardy. If, however, we follow the cases (State v. Williams, 32 S. C. 124, 10 S. E. 876; State v. Chapman, 56 S. C. 420, 34 S. E. 961, 76 Am. St. Rep. 557; State v. Easterlin, 61 S. C. 71, 39 S. E. 250), then this act must be upheld. In the first case such legislation was held constitutional, the court saying: "If the General Assembly sees proper to make the violation of a particular species of civil contracts a criminal offense, we are unable to discover in the provisions of the Constitution anything which forbids such legislation." In State v. Chapman this very statute was sustained against the charge that it was discriminatory in favor of the landlord against the laborer, but no reference is made to the question of Imprisonment for debt. In State v. Easterlin the statute was held not to provide imprisonment for debt, and the court said: "Even if it should be so construed, the offense made punishable involves an element of fraud." Nothing short of strongest conviction of fundamental error should...

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33 practice notes
  • In re Treatment and Care of Luckabaugh, No. 25503.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 22, 2002
    ...persons alike it does not violate the equal protection clause. See Marley v. Kirby, 271 S.C. 122, 245 S.E.2d 604 (1978); Ex parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9, 60 S.E. 19 (1908). The equal protection clause only forbids "irrational and unjustified classifications." South Carolina Pub. Serv. Auth. v. ......
  • Gasque Inc v. Nates, No. 14839.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 14, 1939
    ...field of taxation than it is in criminal statutes such as this. Particularly pertinent is the decision of our Court in Ex parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9, 60 S.E. 19, 25, 21 L.R.A., N.S., 242, 4 Ann.Cas. 1105, where the Court quotes from the United States Supreme Court decision of Connolly v. Pipe......
  • Commonwealth v. McKenty, 179
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 9, 1912
    ...of a statute may be tested by habeas corpus proceedings to release from custody one who has been imprisoned under it: Ex parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9 (60 S.E. 19); Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371; 21 Cyc. 302; 15 Am. & Eng. Ency. (2d ed.), 204; Church on Habeas Corpus (2d ed.), 383; Com. v. Hunt......
  • Miller v. State, No. 86-130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 13, 1987
    ...State ex rel. Norton v. Janing, 182 Neb. 539, 156 N.W.2d 9 (1968); State v. Hertzog, 92 S.C. 14, 75 S.E. 374 (1912); Ex Parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9, 60 S.E. 19 (1908); Commercial National Bank of Sturgis v. Smith, 60 S.D. 376, 244 N.W. 521 (1932); Peterson v. State, Tex.Cr.App. 645 S.W.2d 807 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
33 cases
  • In re Treatment and Care of Luckabaugh, No. 25503.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 22, 2002
    ...persons alike it does not violate the equal protection clause. See Marley v. Kirby, 271 S.C. 122, 245 S.E.2d 604 (1978); Ex parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9, 60 S.E. 19 (1908). The equal protection clause only forbids "irrational and unjustified classifications." South Carolina Pub. Serv. Auth. v. ......
  • Gasque Inc v. Nates, No. 14839.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • March 14, 1939
    ...field of taxation than it is in criminal statutes such as this. Particularly pertinent is the decision of our Court in Ex parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9, 60 S.E. 19, 25, 21 L.R.A., N.S., 242, 4 Ann.Cas. 1105, where the Court quotes from the United States Supreme Court decision of Connolly v. Pipe......
  • Commonwealth v. McKenty, 179
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 9, 1912
    ...of a statute may be tested by habeas corpus proceedings to release from custody one who has been imprisoned under it: Ex parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9 (60 S.E. 19); Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371; 21 Cyc. 302; 15 Am. & Eng. Ency. (2d ed.), 204; Church on Habeas Corpus (2d ed.), 383; Com. v. Hunt......
  • Miller v. State, No. 86-130
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 13, 1987
    ...State ex rel. Norton v. Janing, 182 Neb. 539, 156 N.W.2d 9 (1968); State v. Hertzog, 92 S.C. 14, 75 S.E. 374 (1912); Ex Parte Hollman, 79 S.C. 9, 60 S.E. 19 (1908); Commercial National Bank of Sturgis v. Smith, 60 S.D. 376, 244 N.W. 521 (1932); Peterson v. State, Tex.Cr.App. 645 S.W.2d 807 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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