United States Kennedy v. Tyler, 125

Decision Date12 October 1925
Docket NumberNo. 125,125
Citation70 L.Ed. 138,269 U.S. 13,46 S.Ct. 1
PartiesUNITED STATES ex rel. KENNEDY et al. v. TYLER, Sheriff, et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Messrs. Albert Ottinger, Atty. Gen., and Edward G. Griffin, Deputy Atty. Gen., for the State of New York.

Messrs. James M. Beck, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D. C., Ira K. Wells, Asst. Atty. Gen., and W. W. Dyar, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., for the United States.

Mr. Edward G. Griffin, of New York City, for respondent Alice Estella Spring.

Mr. Justice SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

Nathaniel C. Patterson, a duly enrolled Seneca Indian residing on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in the state of New York, died testate leaving a widow (a white woman), a daughter and three sons. The widow was named in the will as sole executrix. The will was regularly admitted to probate by the surrogate of Erie county, N. Y., and letters of administration granted. The widow thereupon presented her letters of administration together with the will to the peacemakers' court of the Cattaraugus Reservation, where the deceased had left real property, asking that the probate of the will be recognized or the will itself be admitted there to probate. The peacemakers' court, holding that the widow and her children were not members of the Seneca Nation, and therefore, under tribal custom, not entitled to inherit lands in the reservation, declined to grant either prayer, but appointed Pierce administrator. Pierce brought an action in the peacemakers' court to eject the widow from the property and to set aside the probate of the will by the surrogate of Erie county. The widow appeared specially and objected to the jurisdiction of the peacemakers' court. That court overruled the objection and entered judgment against her for possession of the property. Upon the application of the widow, the Supreme Court of the state issued its final order prohibiting Pierce, administrator, and the members of the peacemakers' court from taking any further steps in the matter. In violation of that order, Pierce caused a mandate of the peacemakers' court to be issued and delivered to Warren Kennedy, marshal of the reservation, under which the latter took possession of the property. Thereupon contempt proceedings were had before the state Supreme Court, as a result of which Pierce and Kennedy were adjudged guilty of a contempt of that court in having wilfully disobeyed its prohibition order and sentenced to pay a fine in the sum of $184.50 with imprisonment as the alternative. Upon their failure to pay the fine, Pierce and Kennedy were ordered committed to the Erie county jail, and to that end were taken into custody by the sheriff of Erie county. A writ of habeas corpus was immediately sought in the federal District Court for the Western District of New York, upon the grounds that Pierce and Kennedy were Seneca Indians and their detention was in violation of their rights under treaties with the Seneca Nation; that both the Indians and the lands in question were outside the sovereignty of the state, and consequently of the jurisdiction of its courts; and that by their arrest and detention they were denied the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The writ was sued out by the relator Walter S. Kennedy, father of Warren.

The District Court exercised its discretion in favor of issuing the writ principally upon the ground that Pierce and Warren Kennedy, being Seneca Indians, were wards of the nation and entitled to the protection of the federal courts. But, in deciding the case upon the merits, that court pointed out that as early as 1849 the state of New York, at the earnest request of the Indians themselves, had assumed jurisdiction over them and their lands and possessions within the state; that to that end state laws had been enacted for their civil government and the regulation of their internal affairs; that the peacemakers' courts on the several reservations were created by state law; and that the courts of the state had uniformly held that the power of the state in respect of these matters had never been doubted or questioned, and such sovereignty as the Indians may have formerly possessed had been merged and lost in the sovereignty of the state, under which they must look for protection of life and property. In the absence of congressional action, the District Court concluded that these state laws and decisions, by long acquiescence on the part of the Indians, had become rules of property within the state and were controlling. The writ was accordingly dismissed. United States v. Waldow, 294 F. 111.

We are asked to enter upon a review of these matters and of the historical relations of the Indians to the nation and to the state of New York from a time long anterior to the adoption of the federal Constitution. The conclusion we have reached makes this unnecessary. It is enough for present purposes to say that the state of New York, as early as 1849, at the request of the Indians, assumed governmental control of them and their property, passed laws creating and defining the jurisdiction of the peacemakers' courts, administered these laws through its courts, and that Congress has never undertaken to interfere with this situation or to assume control. Whether the state judicial power extends to controversies in respect of the succession of Indian lands within the boundaries of the state, whether the peacemakers' court in the exercise of its jurisdiction is subject to the authority of the state Supreme Court, whether the subject-matter of these controversies and proceedings was one exclusively within the control of the national government and beyond the authority of ...

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145 cases
  • Johnson v. Bauman
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit
    • February 22, 2022
    ...home nation). These exceptions were limited, however, in both number and scope. See, e.g. , United States ex rel. Kennedy v. Tyler , 269 U.S. 13, 15, 17–19, 46 S.Ct. 1, 70 L.Ed. 138 (1925) (refusing to excuse exhaustion where the petitioners, two Seneca Indians, claimed their detention viol......
  • McGee v. Estelle
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • January 16, 1984
    ...114, 116-17, 64 S.Ct. 448, 450, 88 L.Ed. 572, 574 (1944) (applying exhaustion requirement); United States ex rel. Kennedy v. Tyler, 269 U.S. 13, 17-19, 46 S.Ct. 1, 2-3, 70 L.Ed. 138, 143-144 (1925) (same).8 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2254(b). In full, that paragraph reads:An application for a writ of h......
  • v. Lydon
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    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • April 18, 1984
    ...Ex parte Hawk, 321 U.S. 114, 116-118, 64 S.Ct. 448, 449-450, 88 L.Ed. 572 (1944) (per curiam); United States ex rel. Kennedy v. Tyler, 269 U.S. 13, 17-19, 46 S.Ct. 1, 2-3, 70 L.Ed. 138 (1925); Davis v. Burke, 179 U.S. 399, 402-403, 21 S.Ct. 210, 211, 45 L.Ed. 249 (1900); Ex parte Royall, 11......
  • Darr v. Burford
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • April 3, 1950
    ...104—105, 18 S.Ct. 805, 807, 43 L.Ed. 91; Urquhart v. Brown, 205 U.S. 179, 27 S.Ct. 459, 51 L.Ed. 760; United States ex rel. Kennedy v. Tyler, 269 U.S. 13, 46 S.Ct. 1, 70 L.Ed. 138; Mooney v. Holohan, supra, 294 U.S. 103, 115, 55 S.Ct. 340, 79 L.Ed. 791, 98 A.L.R. 406; Ex parte Abernathy, 32......
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1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Carolina Academic Press Federal Habeas Corpus: Cases and Materials (CAP)
    • Invalid date
    ...the principle that state remedies must be exhausted except in unusual circumstances. See, e.g., United States ex rel. Kennedy v. Tyler, 269 U.S. 13, 17-19 (1925) (holding that the lower court should have dismissed the petition because none of the questions had been raised in the state court......

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