United States v. Tilden Stevenson

Decision Date29 November 1909
Docket NumberNo. 292,292
Citation30 S.Ct. 35,215 U.S. 190,54 L.Ed. 153
PartiesUNITED STATES, Plff. in Err., v. TILDEN B. STEVENSON and Amede Bellaire, alias Joseph Bellaire
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Solicitor General Bowers for plaintiff in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 191-193 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Herbert Parker, Charles C. Milton, and Henry H. Fuller for defendants in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 193-194 intentionally omitted] Mr. Justice Day delivered the opinion of the court:

This case comes to this court under the provisions of the criminal appeals act of March 2, 1907, providing for writs of error on behalf of the United States in certain criminal cases. 34 Stat. at L. 1246, chap. 2564, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1907, p. 209. The defendants in error were indicted for the violation of the immigration act of February 20, 1907 (34 Stat. at L. 898, chap. 1134, U. S. Comp. Stat. Supp. 1907, p. 389), and charged with unlawfully assisting certain alien contract laborers to migrate from Canada to the United States, in violation of the statute. The district court, upon demurrer to the indictment, held the second count thereof to be invalid, because the sole remedy for a violation of the statute was in a civil action for the recovery of a penalty under § 5 of the act. The court also held the second count bad because it did not sufficiently specify the acts of assistance constituting the alleged offense. Rulings were made concerning the first count, not involved in this proceeding.

From this statement it is apparent that the court below proceeded upon two grounds, one of which concerned the construction of the statute, the other of which decided the invalidity of the indictment upon general principles of criminal law. We are therefore met at the threshold of the case with the question whether a writ of error will lie in such a case as the one under consideration, under the provisions of the criminal appeals act of 1907.

This statute was before the court in the case of United States v. Keitel, 211 U. S. 370, 53 L. ed. 230, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 123, and is given in full in the margin of the report of that case. In that case it was held that the purpose of the statute being to permit a review in this court of decisions based upon the invalidity or construction of the criminal statutes of the United States, the decisions of the lower courts were intended to be reviewed only upon such questions, and the whole case could not be brought here for review. In the Keitel Case it was insisted that this court should consider the validity of the indictment upon questions of general law not decided in the court below. We are here confronted with a case in which a decision of the court below sustaining a demurrer to an indictment involves not only the construction of a Federal statute, but another ground upon which the decision was also rested, which involves the sufficiency of the indictment on general principles.

The object of the criminal appeals statute was to permit the United States to have a review of questions of statutory construction in cases where indictments had been quashed, or set aside, or demurrers thereto sustained, with a view to prosecuting offenses under such acts when this court should be of opinion that the statute, properly construed, did in fact embrace an indictable offense. Inasmuch as the United States could not bring such a case here after final judgment, it was intended to permit a review of such decisions as are embraced within the statute, at the instance of the government, in order to have a final and determinative construction of the act, and to prevent a miscarriage of justice if the construction of the statute in the court below was unwarranted.

In the Keitel Case this court said (211 U. S. 398):

'That act [act of March 2, 1907] we think plainly shows that, in giving to the United States the right to invoke the authority of this court by direct writ of error in the cases for which it provides, contemplates vesting this court with jurisdiction only to review the particular question decided by the court below for which the statute provides.'

As the question of general law involved in the decision of the court below is not within either of the classes named in the statute giving a right of review in this court, we must decline to consider it upon this writ of error.

We come now to consider the construction of the statute and the validity of the indictment in that respect. Sections 4 and 5 of the immigration act under consideration are given in the margin.1

A reading of these sections makes it apparent that the act makes it a misdemeanor to assist or encourage the importation of contract laborers, and that violations thereof may be punished with forfeiture and payment of $1,000 for each offense, which, it is provided, may be sued for and recovered by the United States, or by any person bringing the action, as debts of like amounts are recovered in the courts of the United States; and it is made the duty of the district attorney of the proper district to prosecute every such suit when brought by the United States.

The contention of the defendants in error is that the action for a penalty is exclusive of all other means of enforcing the act, and that an indictment will not lie as for an alleged offense within the terms of the act. The general principle is invoked that, where a statute creates a right and prescribes a particular remedy, that remedy, and none other, can be resorted to. An illustration of this doctrine is found in Globe Newspaper Co. v. Walker, 210 U. S. 356, 52 L. ed. 1096, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 726, in which it was held that, in the copyright statutes then in force, Congress had provided a system of rights and remedies complete and exclusive in their character. This was held because, after a review of the history of the legislation, such, it was concluded, was the intention of Congress.

The rule which excludes other remedies where a statute creates a right and provides a special remedy for its enforcement rests upon the presumed prohibition of all other remedies. If such prohibition is intended to reach the government in the use of known rights and remedies, the language must be clear and specific to that effect. Dollar Sav. Bank v. United...

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