Ex parte Parks

Citation93 U.S. 18,23 L.Ed. 787
Decision Date01 October 1876
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

MR. WILLIAM GREEN presented the petition of Richard S. Parks praying for a writ of habeas corpus.

The petition is set forth, and the facts in the case are stated, in the opinion of the court.

MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.

The petitioner for habeas corpus in this case was convicted of forgery in the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Virginia, and is in custody by virtue of a commitment under sentence of imprisonment in the penitentiary for said offence. Complaining that his conviction was illegal, by reason that the act for which he was convicted was not a crime against the laws of the United States, he applied to the circuit judge for a habeas corpus, and, after a hearing thereon, was remanded into custody. Not being satisfied with this decision, he now applies to this court for a habeas corpus. His petition is as follows:——

'To the Honorable Morrison R. Waite, Chief Justice, and his Associates, Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States:

'The petition of Richard S. Parks respectfully represents, that your petitioner is illegally confined in jail, at Harrisonburg, in Virginia being in the custody of A. S. Gray, as Marshal of the United States for the Western District of Virginia, by virtue of a commitment under an illegal sentence of the District Court of the United States for the said district, the same (sentence) being void and in law a nullity, for want of jurisdiction in the said court to pass it upon and against your petitioner, which said sentence was pronounced in a case of the United States against your petitioner, a transcript of the record whereof is herewith presented. That your petitioner heretofore made application to the honorable judge of Circuit Court of the United States for the said district, that he would order the discharge of your petitioner upon a writ of habeas corpus sued out for that object; but his honor, the said judge of the Circuit Court, instead of discharging, remanded him to the custody of the said marshal, as will appear from a transcript of his order in the said matter, which transcript is likewise herewith presented. And that your petitioner therefore prays at your honors' hands the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus, to be directed to the said marshal, commanding him to have before your honors, at a day and place to be named therein, the body of your petitioner, together with the cause of his capture and detention, to undergo and receive whatsoever your honors shall then and there consider of him in that behalf.

'And your petitioner will ever pray, &c.


The transcript of the record of conviction, which accompanies the petition, shows that the petitioner was indicted for forging the signature of C. Douglass Gray, register in bankruptcy, to the following receipt:——

'HARRISONBURG, July 30, 1872.

'Received of J. D. Martin, by R. S. Parks, his attorney, the application, with necessary papers, for adjudication in bankruptcy of said Martin; also, $50, amount of required deposit.

'C. DOUGLASS GRAY, Register.'

One count of the indictment charges that Parks committed the forgery for the purpose of authenticating the commencement of proceedings in bankruptcy in the case of J. D. Martin. Another count alleges the purpose to have been to authenticate a proceeding in the said case; namely, the filing of the paper with the register. There was a third count, which did not state the purpose.

The petitioner contends that the forging of this receipt is not a crime by any act of Congress, and that, as the courts of the United States have no common-law jurisdiction of crimes, the District Court had no jurisdiction to try him for the offence. The indictment is founded on the forty-sixth section of the Bankrupt Act (re-enacted and made more general in sect. 5419 of the Revised Statutes), which declares, that 'if any person shall forge the signature of a judge, register, or other officer of the court, or knowingly concur in using any such forged or counterfeited signature . . . for the purpose of authenticating any proceeding or document, . . . such person shall be guilty of felony,' &c. The petitioner insists that the paper whose forgery is charged is not a document which could be used in evidence in any proceeding, by reason of its being authenticated by the official signature of the register. This proposition may be questioned. But suppose it were true, the receipt could be used in evidence, if genuine, for the purpose of showing the fact stated therein as against the signer in his official as well as private capacity. At all events, it is not clear and free from all doubt that the forgery is not within the terms of the statute.

But the question whether it was or was not a crime within the statute was one which the District Court was competent to decide. It was before the court, and within its jurisdiction. No other court, except the Circuit Court for the same district, having concurrent jurisdiction, was as competent to decide the question as the District Court.

Whether an act charged in an indictment is or is not a crime by the law which the court administers (in this case the statute law of the United States), is a question which has to be met at almost every stage of criminal proceedings; on motions to quash the indictment, on demurrers, on motions to arrest judgment, & c. The court may err, but it has jurisdiction of the question. If it errs, there is no remedy after final judgment, unless a writ of error lies to some Superior Court; and no such writ lies in this case. It would be an assumption of authority for this court, by means of the writ of habeas corpus, to review every case in which the defendant attempts to controvert the criminality of the offence charged in the indictment. It having been held that the regulation of the appellate power of this court was conferred upon Congress, and Congress having given an appeal or writ of error in only certain specified cases, the implication is irresistible, that those errors and irregularities, which can only be reviewed by appeal or writ of error, cannot be reviewed in this court in any other cases than those in which those processes are given. Now, it has always been held that a mere error in point of law, committed by a court in a case properly subject to its cognizance, can only be reviewed by the ordinary methods of appeal or writ of error; but that where the proceedings are not only erroneous, but entirely void,—as...

To continue reading

Request your trial
226 cases
  • Commonwealth v. McKenty
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • December 9, 1912
    ...v. Swift & Co., 36 Pa.Super. 376. Error in sentence cannot be corrected on writ of habeas corpus: Ex parte Lange, 85 U.S. 163; Ex parte Parks, 93 U.S. 18; Sennott's Case, 146 Mass. 489 (16 N.E. Stalker's Petition, 167 Mass. 11; Seller's Case, 186 Mass. 301 (71 N.E. 542); Ex parte Max, 44 Ca......
  • United States v. Reincke
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • March 22, 1965
    ...Developing from the long standing postulate that habeas corpus will not be used as a substitute for a writ of error, Ex parte Parks, 93 U.S. 18, 23 L.Ed. 787 (1876); In re Coy, 127 U.S. 731, 8 S.Ct. 1263, 32 L.Ed. 274 (1888), it has been held with consistency that, "Attacks upon the suffici......
  • Leo Frank v. Wheeler Mangum
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 19, 1915
    ...cognizance, cannot be reviewed by habeas corpus. That writ cannot be employed as a substitute for the writ of error. Ex parte Parks, 93 U. S. 18, 21, 23 L. ed. 787, 788; Ex parte Siebold, 100 U. S. 371, 375, 25 L. ed. 717, 718; Ex parte Royall, 117 U. S. 241, 250, 29 L. ed. 868, 871, 6 Sup.......
  • Swift Co v. United States
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 19, 1928
    ...parties. And even gross error in the decree would not render it void. Compare Ex parte Watkins, 3 Pet. 193, 7 L. Ed. 650; Ex parte Parks, 93 U. S. 18, 23 L. Ed. 650; Ex parte Parks, 93 U. S. 18, 23 L. Ed. 787; In re Coy, 127 U. S. 731, 756, 8 S. Ct. 1263, 32 L. Ed. Seventh. It is contended ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT