Ex parte Hudgings

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation39 S.Ct. 337,249 U.S. 378,11 A. L. R. 333,63 L.Ed. 656
Docket NumberNo. 27,27
PartiesEx parte HUDGINGS
Decision Date14 April 1919

Mr. Jesse Fuller, Jr., of Brooklyn, N. Y., for petitioner.

Mr. Alexander C. King, Sol. Gen., of Atlanta, Ga., for respondent.

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

After hearing and leave granted on a rule to show cause, this petition for habeas corpus seeking the discharge of the petitioner from custody under a commitment for contempt was filed. The grounds for discharge were that the court had exceeded its jurisdiction by punishing as a contempt an act which it had no power to so punish, and that even if the act punished was susceptible of being treated as a contempt the action of the court was arbitrary, beyond the limits of any discretion possessed, and violative of due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. Prior to submission and after return and the hearing which ensued an order admitting to bail was made.

The duty to consider the case arises from the permission to file, and therefore prima facie implies that it is of such a character as to be an exception to the rule of procedure that other available sources of judicial power may not be passed by for the purpose of obtaining relief by resort to the original jurisdiction of this court. Ex parte Royall, 117 U. S. 254, 6 Sup. Ct. 742, 29 L. Ed. 872; Riggins v. United States, 199 U. S. 547, 26 Sup. Ct. 147, 50 L. Ed. 303; Glasgow v. Moyer, 225 U. S. 420, 428, 32 Sup. Ct. 753, 56 L. Ed. 1147; Johnson v. Hoy, 227 U. S. 245, 33 Sup. Ct. 240, 57 L. Ed. 497; Jones v. Perkins, 245 U. S. 390, 38 Sup. Ct. 166, 62 L. Ed. 358; Re Mirzan, 119 U. S. 584, 7 Sup. Ct. 341, 30 L. Ed. 513; Re Huntington, 137 U. S. 63, 11 Sup. Ct. 4, 34 L. Ed. 567. Whether, however, definitively the case is of such exceptional character must depend upon an analysis of the merits, which we now proceed to make upon the petition, the return, argument for the petitioner, suggestions by the United States, a statement by the judge, and a transcript of the stenographer's notes showing what transpired in the court below, made a part of the argument of the petitioner and in substance conceded by all parties to be the record.

In a trial which was proceeding in the court below, presided over by the judge of the district of Vermont assigned to the Eastern district of New York, the petitioner was recalled as a witness by the government for the purpose of proving by his testimony the handwriting of MacMillan and Van Amburgh. On being shown the writings referred to, in answer to questions by the government, he said that he believed, from having often seen the writing of the persons named, that the writings shown him were theirs, but that he could not so state from having seen MacMillan and Van Amburgh write because he could not recollect ever having seen them do so. The court thereupon pointedly questioned the witness on the subject of his recollection and, in view of his persistency in declaring that he could not swear from knowledge derived from a recollection of having seen MacMillan and Van Amburgh write or sign that the writings were theirs, states to government counsel that because of the evident unwillingness of the witness the widest latitude would be allowed the government in its examination. This was availed of, and an inquiry followed covering a wide field as to the previous association of the witness with the parties in question, his employment in the business in which they were engaged, and other circumstances deemed to persuasively establish that his connection with them had been such that his statement that he could not remember having seen them write was untrue.

The inquiries, however, made no change in the statements of the witness, who persisted in saying:

'I cannot say that I can recall that I have ever seen him in the act of writing. I would not say I have not, but I would not say that I have.'

Finally the court interrupted the examination by saying:

'This witness in going to be committed for contempt of court. The court is thoroughly satisfied, Mr. Witness, that you are testifying falsely when you say that you cannot recall of ever seeing Mr. MacMillan write, and this has happened several times during this trial with other witness, especially with you wife. * * *

'And it becomes the plain duty of the court to commit you to jail, sir, for contempt, and before doing so, I think it is the duty of the court to explain to you that the answer, 'I do not remember of ever having seen him write,' is just as false, is just as much contempt of court if you have seen him write, as it would be for you to say that you had never seen him write, without using the expression, 'I do not remember."

In the same direction the court said:

'I am not going to allow you to obstruct the course of justice here, and if this nation has delegated power enough to this court, and I am very sure it has, to deal with you in the manner proposed, I am going to do it.'

Before the discharge of the witness from the stand an order for contempt against him was made, and he was committed to the custody of the marshal. On the same day he pleaded not guilty to an indictment for perjury which the grand jury had just presented and obtained an order for release on bail which was inoperative because he continued to be held under the commitment for contempt.

The record states that on July 8th following a nunc pro tunc order of commitment was spread upon the minutes in which the previous commitment was described as having been made for misbehaviour of the petitioner in the presence of the court when on the witness stand by willfully...

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192 cases
  • US v. Watt
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • December 4, 1995
    ...of obstruction to the Court in the performance of its duty." Id. at 228, 66 S.Ct. at 80 (quoting Ex parte Hudgings, 249 U.S. 378, 382, 383, 39 S.Ct. 337, 339, 340, 63 L.Ed. 656 (1919)). Moreover, no additional act need be alleged to state an offense under the omnibus clause of § 1503. See U......
  • In re Grogan
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    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • January 24, 1997
    ...of that element must clearly be shown in every case where the power to punish for contempt is exerted. Ex parte Hudgings, 249 U.S. 378, 383, 39 S.Ct. 337, 339-40, 63 L.Ed. 656 (1919). In Toledo Newspaper Co. v. United States, 247 U.S. 402, 38 S.Ct. 560, 62 L.Ed. 1186 (1918), the Court endor......
  • In re Kendall
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • April 3, 2013
    ...or thwart the judicial process.” United States v. Warlick, 742 F.2d 113, 115–16 (4th Cir.1984) (citing Ex parte Hudgings, 249 U.S. 378, 383, 39 S.Ct. 337, 63 L.Ed. 656 (1919)); compare In re Michael, 326 U.S. 224, 228, 66 S.Ct. 78, 90 L.Ed. 30 (1945) (“[P]erjury alone does not constitute an......
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    • March 6, 1947
    ...695, 696, 58 L.Ed. 1115; Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 45 S.Ct. 332, 69 L.Ed. 527, 38 A.L.R. 131; Ex parte Hudgings, 249 U.S. 378, 383, 39 S.Ct. 337, 339, 63 L.Ed. 656, 11 A.L.R. 333; Michaelson v. United States, 266 U.S. 42, 45 S.Ct. 18, 69 L.Ed. 162, 35 A.L.R. 451; Blackmer v. United St......
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