Frisbie v. United States, No. 811

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBREWER
PartiesFRISBIE v. UNITED STATES
Decision Date18 March 1895
Docket NumberNo. 811

157 U.S. 160
15 S.Ct. 586
39 L.Ed. 657
FRISBIE

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 811.
March 18, 1895.

Page 161

On June 27, 1890, congress passed an act (26 Stat. 182), the fourth section of which is as follows:

'That no agent, attorney, or other person engaged in preparing, presenting, or prosecuting any claim under the provisions of this act shall, directly or indirectly, contract for, demand, receive, or retain for such services in preparing, presenting, or prosecuting such claim a sum greater than ten dollars, which sum shall be payable only upon the order of the commissioner of pensions, by the pension agent making payment of the pension allowed, and any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this section, or who shall wrongfully withhold from a pensioner or claimant the whole or any part of a pension or claim allowed or due such pensioner or claimant under this act, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall, for each and every such offense, be fined not exceeding five hundred dollars, or be imprisoned at hard labor not exceeding two years, or both, in the discretion of the court.'

Under this statute an indictment was returned to the circuit court of the United States for the Eastern district of Louisiana, the first count of which is as follows:

'The grand jurors of the United States of America, duly impaneled and sworn, in and for the Eastern district of Louisiana, in the said circuit court, on their oath present that Henry N. Frisbie, late of the Eastern district of Louisiana, lawyer, on the third day of January, A. D. eighteen hundred and ninety-four, at the city of New Orleans, in the Eastern district of Louisiana, and within the jurisdiction of this court, then and there being a person engaged in preparing, presenting, and prosecuting a claim for pension upon the said United States _____ entitled 'An act granting pensions to soldiers and sailos who are incapacitated for the performance of manual labor, and providing for pensions to widows, minor

Page 162

children, and dependent parents,' approved June 27, 1890, to wit, a claim made by and on behalf of one Julia Johnson, under the said act of congress, as the widow of Lewis Johnson, deceased, late a soldier in the military service of the United States during the war of the Rebellion, to wit, a private in Co. C, 87 Reg., Co. B, 84 U. S. C. Vol. Inf., feloniously and wrongfully did violate the provisions of the fourth section of the said act of congress, in that he did then and there feloniously and wrongfully demand, receive, and retain of and from the said claimant, Julia Johnson, for his said services in preparing, presenting, and prosecuting her said claim for pension aforesaid, a sum of money greater than ten dollars, the exact amount thereof being to the jurors aforesaid unknown.'

To this indictment the defendant demurred 'on the ground that the law under which said indictment was found is unconstitutional and void, for the reason that congress has no power to regulate the price of labor, nor impair the obligation of contracts. (2) that only the pensioner can make complaint. No case can be maintained unless affidavit is made by pensioner. (3) Charge is not sustained by the claim set out.' The demurrer having been overruled, he entered a plea of not guilty. A trial was had, which resulted in a verdict of guilty. A motion for a new trial having been overruled, the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for three months. To reverse such judgment he sued out this writ of error.

O. B. Sansum, for plaintiff in error.

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

Mr. Justice BREWER, after stating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court.

Neither the testimony nor the instructions are preserved in the record, and the only questions presented for our consideration arise on the indictment.

Page 163

It is objected, in the first place, that the indictment lacks the indorsement 'A true bill,' as well as the signature of the foreman of the grand jury. No objection was made on this ground in the circuit court, either before or after the trial. There is in the federal statutes no mandatory provision requiring such indorsement or authentication, and the matter must therefore be determined on general principles. It may be conceded that in the mother country, formerly at least, such indorsement and authentication were essential. 'The indorsement is parcel of the indictment, and the perfection of it.' King v. Ford, Yel. 99. But this grew out of the practice which there obtained. The bills of indictment or formal accusations of crime were prep red and presented to the grand jury, who, after investigation, either approved or disapproved of the accusation, and indicated their action by the indorsement, 'A true bill,' or 'Ignoramus,' or sometimes, in lieu of the latter, 'Not found,' and all the bills thus acted upon were returned by the grand jury to the court. In this way the indorsement became the evidence, if not the only evidence, to the court of their action. But in this country the common practice is for the grand jury to investigate any alleged crime, no matter how or by whom suggested to them, and, after determining that the evidence is sufficient to justify putting the party suspected on trial, to direct the preparation of the formal charge or indictment. Thus they return into court only those accusations which they have approved, and the fact that they thus return them into court is evidence of such approval, and the formal indorsement loses its essential character. This matter is fully discussed by Beasley, C. J., in State v. Magrath, 44 N. J. Law, 227, 228; by Moncure, president of the court of appeals, in Price v. Com., 21 Grat. 846, 856; and by Merrick, J., in Com. v. Smyth, 11 Cush. 473, 474, the latter saying: 'This...

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240 practice notes
  • Hobby v. United States, No. 82-2140
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • July 2, 1984
    ...of the foreman's signature is a mere technical irregularity that is not necessarily fatal to the indictment. Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160, 163-165, 15 S.Ct. 586, 587-588, 39 L.Ed. 657 (1895). As the Court of Appeals noted, the impact of a federal grand jury foreman upon the crimin......
  • Harris v. Gordy, Civil Action Number: 5:15-cv-01112-VEH-JEO
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • November 1, 2017
    ...to endorse indictment as true bill did not deprive circuit court of jurisdiction so as to render judgment void); Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160, 163-65 (1895) (an objection that the Page 7indictment lacks the indorsement [sic] "A true bill" as well as the signature of the foreman of......
  • Bratberg v. Advance-Rumely Thresher Co., No. 5872.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • October 23, 1931
    ...every citizen has a right freely to contract for the price of his labor, services, or property.’ Frisbie v. U. S., 157 U. S. 165, 166, 15 S. Ct. 586, 39 L. Ed. 658, 659. * * * The principle was thus stated in McLean v. Arkansas, 211 U. S. 547, 548, 29 S. Ct. 206, 53 L. Ed. 315. ‘The legisla......
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Mackay Radio & Tel. Co., No. 8137.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 11, 1937
    ...speaking, every citizen has a right freely to contract for the price of his labor, services, or property.' Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160 165, 166, 15 S.Ct. 586, 39 L.Ed. 657 658, "The right to make contracts is subject to the exercise of the powers granted to Congress for the suita......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
240 cases
  • Hobby v. United States, No. 82-2140
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • July 2, 1984
    ...of the foreman's signature is a mere technical irregularity that is not necessarily fatal to the indictment. Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160, 163-165, 15 S.Ct. 586, 587-588, 39 L.Ed. 657 (1895). As the Court of Appeals noted, the impact of a federal grand jury foreman upon the crimin......
  • Harris v. Gordy, Civil Action Number: 5:15-cv-01112-VEH-JEO
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • November 1, 2017
    ...to endorse indictment as true bill did not deprive circuit court of jurisdiction so as to render judgment void); Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160, 163-65 (1895) (an objection that the Page 7indictment lacks the indorsement [sic] "A true bill" as well as the signature of the foreman of......
  • Bratberg v. Advance-Rumely Thresher Co., No. 5872.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • October 23, 1931
    ...every citizen has a right freely to contract for the price of his labor, services, or property.’ Frisbie v. U. S., 157 U. S. 165, 166, 15 S. Ct. 586, 39 L. Ed. 658, 659. * * * The principle was thus stated in McLean v. Arkansas, 211 U. S. 547, 548, 29 S. Ct. 206, 53 L. Ed. 315. ‘The legisla......
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Mackay Radio & Tel. Co., No. 8137.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 11, 1937
    ...speaking, every citizen has a right freely to contract for the price of his labor, services, or property.' Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160 165, 166, 15 S.Ct. 586, 39 L.Ed. 657 658, "The right to make contracts is subject to the exercise of the powers granted to Congress for the suita......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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