Skiriotes v. State of Florida, No. 658

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtHUGHES
Citation85 L.Ed. 1193,61 S.Ct. 924,313 U.S. 69
Decision Date28 April 1941
Docket NumberNo. 658
PartiesSKIRIOTES v. STATE OF FLORIDA

313 U.S. 69
61 S.Ct. 924
85 L.Ed. 1193
SKIRIOTES

v.

STATE OF FLORIDA.

No. 658.
Argued March 14, 1941.
Decided April 28, 1941.
Rehearing Denied May 26, 1941.

See 313 U.S. 599, 61 S.Ct. 1093, 85 L.Ed. —-.

Mr. W. B. Dickenson, Jr., of Tampa, Fla., for appellant.

Mr. Nathan Cockrell, of Tallahassee, Fla., for appellee.

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

Appellant, Lambiris Skiriotes, was convicted in the county court of Pinellas County, Florida, of the use on March 8, 1938, of diving equipment in the taking of sponges from the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida

Page 70

in violation of a state statute. Compiled General Laws of Florida (1927), Section 8087. The conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Florida (197 So. 736) and the case comes here on appeal.

The case was tried without a jury and the facts were stipulated. The statute, the text of which is set forth in the margin,1 forbids the use of diving suits, helmets or other apparatus used by deep sea divers, for the purpose of taking commercial sponges from the Gulf of Mexico, or the Straits of Florida or other waters within the territorial limits of that State.

The charge was that appellant was using the forbidden apparatus 'at a point approximately two marine leagues from mean low tide on the West shore line of the State of Florida and within the territorial limits of the County of Pinellas'. The state court held that the western boundary of Florida was fixed by the state constitution of 1885 at three marine leagues (nine nautical miles) from the shore; that this was the same boundary which had been defined by the state constitution of 1868 to which the Act of Congress had referred in admitting the State of Florida to representation in Congress. Act of June 25, 1868, 15 Stat. 73. The state court sustained the right of the State to fix its marine boundary with

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the approval of Congress, and concluded that the statute was valid in its application to appellant's conduct.

By motions to quash the information and in arrest of judgment, appellant contended that the constitution of Florida fixing the boundary of the State and the statute under which he was prosecuted violated the Constitution and treaties of the United States; that the criminal jurisdiction of the courts of Florida could not extend beyond the international boundaries of the United States and hence could not extend 'to a greater distance than one marine league from mean low tide' on the mainland of the State and adjacent islands included within its territory.

In support of this contention appellant invoked several provisions of the Constitution of the United States, to wit, Article I, Section 10, Clauses 1 and 3, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, Article VI, and the Fourteenth Amendment. Appellant also relied upon numerous treaties of the United States, including the Treaty with Spain of February 22, 1919, and the treaties with several countries, signed between 1924 and 1930, inclusive, for the prevention of smuggling of intoxicating liquors. There were also introduced in evidence diplomatic correspondence and extracts from statements of our Secretaries of State with respect to the limits of the territorial waters of the United States. These contentions were presented to the highest court of the State and were overruled.

The first point of inquiry is with respect to the status of appellant. The stipulation of acts states that appellant 'is by trade and occupation a deep-sea diver engaged in sponge fishery, his resident address being at Tarpon Springs, Pinellas County, Florida', and that he 'has been engaged in this business for the past several years'. Appellant has not asserted or attempted to show that he is not a citizen of the United States, or that he is a citizen of any State other than Florida, or

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that he is a national of any foreign country. It is also significant that in his brief in this Court, replying to the State's argument that as a citizen of Florida he is not in a position to question the boundaries of the State as defined by its constitution, appellant has not challenged the statement as to his citizenship, while he does contest the legal consequences which the State insists flow from that fact.

It further appears that upon appellant's arrest for violation of the statute, he sued out a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court of the United States and was released, but this decision was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. Cunningham, Sheriff, v. Skiriotes, 5 Cir., 101 F.2d 635. That court thought that the question of the statute's validity should be determined in orderly procedure by the state court subject to appropriate review by this Court, but the court expressed doubt as to the right of the appellant to raise the question, saying: 'Skiriotes states he is a citizen of the United States resident in Florida, and therefore is a citizen of Florida. His boat, from which his diving operations were conducted, we may assume was a Florida vessel, carrying Florida law with her, but of course as modified by superior federal law'. Id., 101 F.2d pages 636, 637.

In the light of appellant's statements to the federal court, judicially recited, and upon the present record showing his long residence in Florida and the absence of a claim of any other domicile or of any foreign allegiance, we are justified in assuming that he is a citizen of the United States and of Florida. Certainly appellant has not shown himself entitled to any greater rights than those which a citizen of Florida possesses.

In these circumstances, no question of international law, or of the extent of the authority of the United States in its international relations, is presented. International law is a part of our law and as such is the law

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of all States of the Union (The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 700, 20 S.Ct. 290, 44 L.Ed. 320), but it is a part of our law for the application of its own principles, and these are concerned with international rights and duties and not with domestic rights and duties. The argument based on the limits of the territorial waters of the United States, as these are described by this Court in Cunard Steamship Company v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 100, 122, 43 S.Ct. 504, 506, 67 L.Ed. 894, 27 A.L.R. 1306, and in diplomatic correspondence and statements of the political department of our Government, is thus beside the point. For, aside from the question of the extent of control which the United States may exert in the interest of self-protection over waters near its borders, although beyond its territorial limits,2 the United States is not debarred by any rule of international law from governing the conduct of its own citizens upon the high seas or even in foreign countries when the rights of other nations or their nationals are not infringed. With respect to such an exercise of authority there is no question of international law,3 but solely of the purport of the municipal law which establishes the duty of the citizen in relation to his own government. American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347, 355, 356, 29 S.Ct. 511, 512, 53 L.Ed. 826, 16 Ann.Cas.1047; United States v. Bowman, 260 U.S. 94, 43 S.Ct. 39, 67 L. Ed. 149; Cook v. Tait, 265 U.S. 47, 44 S.Ct. 444, 68 L.Ed. 895; Blackmer v. United States, 284 U.S. 421, 437, 52 S.Ct. 252, 254, 76 L.Ed. 375. Thus, a criminal statute dealing with acts that are directly injurious

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to the government, and are capable of perpetration without regard to particular locality is to be construed as applicable to citizens of the United States upon the high seas or in a foreign country, though there be no express declaration to that effect. United States v. Bowman, supra.4 The Bowman case arose under Section 35 of the Criminal Code. 18 U.S.C., Sec. 80, 18 U.S.C.A. § 80....

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171 practice notes
  • 44 600 Bigelow v. Virginia 8212 1309, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 16, 1975
    ...fit the laws and their administration to the acts of men and not be led away by mere "bookish theorick." See, e.g., Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 74—75, 61 S.Ct. 924, 928, 85 L.Ed. 1193 (1941); Ford v. United States, 273 U.S. 593, 620—621, 47 S.Ct. 531, 540—541, 71 L.Ed. 793 (1927). To......
  • Centre for Independence of Judges v. Mabey, No. C 82-0158J.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Utah
    • March 12, 1982
    ...667, 51 L.Ed. 956 (1907). Recent decisions by the federal courts are wholly in harmony with this view. See e.g., Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 72-73, 61 S.Ct. 924, 927-928, 85 L.Ed. 1193 (1941); Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 630 F.2d 876, 885-887 (2d Cir. 1980) ("The law of nations . . . ha......
  • Chandler v. United States, No. 4296.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 28, 1949
    ...allows it to be inferred from the nature of the offense." United States v. Bowman was cited with approval in Skiriotes v. Florida, 1941, 313 U.S. 69, 73, 74, 61 S.Ct. 924, 928, 85 L.Ed. 1193, for the proposition that "a criminal statute dealing with acts that are directly injurious to the g......
  • American Pelagic Fishing Co., L.P. v. U.S., No. 03-5101.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • August 16, 2004
    ...and its citizens while fishing in what is now the EEZ pursuant to a line of Supreme Court cases culminating in Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 61 S.Ct. 924, 85 L.Ed. 1193 (1941). Countries generally attempted to achieve conservation of fish by entering into international fishing agreemen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
171 cases
  • 44 600 Bigelow v. Virginia 8212 1309, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 16, 1975
    ...fit the laws and their administration to the acts of men and not be led away by mere "bookish theorick." See, e.g., Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 74—75, 61 S.Ct. 924, 928, 85 L.Ed. 1193 (1941); Ford v. United States, 273 U.S. 593, 620—621, 47 S.Ct. 531, 540—541, 71 L.Ed. 793 (1927). To......
  • Centre for Independence of Judges v. Mabey, No. C 82-0158J.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Utah
    • March 12, 1982
    ...667, 51 L.Ed. 956 (1907). Recent decisions by the federal courts are wholly in harmony with this view. See e.g., Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 72-73, 61 S.Ct. 924, 927-928, 85 L.Ed. 1193 (1941); Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, 630 F.2d 876, 885-887 (2d Cir. 1980) ("The law of nations . . . ha......
  • Chandler v. United States, No. 4296.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 28, 1949
    ...allows it to be inferred from the nature of the offense." United States v. Bowman was cited with approval in Skiriotes v. Florida, 1941, 313 U.S. 69, 73, 74, 61 S.Ct. 924, 928, 85 L.Ed. 1193, for the proposition that "a criminal statute dealing with acts that are directly injurious to the g......
  • American Pelagic Fishing Co., L.P. v. U.S., No. 03-5101.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • August 16, 2004
    ...and its citizens while fishing in what is now the EEZ pursuant to a line of Supreme Court cases culminating in Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 61 S.Ct. 924, 85 L.Ed. 1193 (1941). Countries generally attempted to achieve conservation of fish by entering into international fishing agreemen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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