Ableman v. Booth, and United States v. Booth
In Ableman v. Booth, and United States v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506 (1858), the general question was as to the authority of a justice of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, upon a writ of habeas corpus, to compel the marshal of the United States to produce the body of one, committed to his custody by an order of a commissioner of a circuit court of the United States, for failing to give bail for his appearance in the district court of the United States for that State, to answer a charge of having violated the provisions of the fugitive slave act of September 18th, 1850.
In other words, a judge of the supreme court of the State claimed and exercised the right to supervise and annul the proceedings of that commissioner, and to discharge a prisoner committed by him for an offence against the laws of the general government.
In United States v. Booth, the question was as to the authority of a justice of the supreme court of the same State, upon a writ of habeas corpus, to discharge one in custody, under a judgment of the district court of the United States, in which he had been indicted for an offence against the laws of the United States, and by which he had been sentenced to be imprisoned for one month, to pay a fine of $1,000 and costs of prosecution, and to remain in custody until the sentence was complied with.
The authority claimed by the justice who issued the writ and discharged the prisoner was affirmed by the supreme court of the State, and hence, as was said, the State court claimed and exercised jurisdiction over the proceedings and judgment of a district court of the United States, and, upon a summary and collateral proceeding, by habeas corpus, set aside and annulled its judgment, and discharged a prisoner who had been tried and found guilty of an offence against the laws of the United States, and sentenced to imprisonment by the district court.
It was held that no such paramount power existed in any State, or her tribunals, since its existence was inconsistent with the supremacy of the general government, as defined and limited by the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof, and could not be recognized without bringing within the control of the States the entire criminal code of the United States, including all offences, from the highest to the lowest, involving imprisonment as a part of the punishment inflicted.
While the sovereignty of the State within its territorial limits to a certain extent was conceded, that sovereignty, the court adjudged, was so limited and restricted by the supreme law of the land, that the sphere of action appropriated to the United States was as entirely beyond the reach of the judicial process issued by a State judge or a State court, as the proceedings in one of the States were beyond the reach of the process of the judicial tribunals of another State.
"We do not question," said this court, "the authority of a State court, or judge, who is authorized by the laws of the State to issue the writ of habeas corpus, to issue it in any case where the party is imprisoned within its territorial limits, provided it does not appear, when the application is made, that the person imprisoned is in custody under the authority of the United States. The court or judge has a right to inquire, in this mode of proceeding, for what cause and by what authority the prisoner is confined within the territorial limits of the State sovereignty. And it is the duty of the marshal, or other person having the custody of the prisoner, to make known to the judge or court, by a proper return, the authority by which he holds him in custody. This right to inquire by process of habeas corpus, and the duty of the officer to make a return, grows, necessarily, out of the complex character of our government, and the existence of two distinct and separate sovereignties within the same territorial space, each of them restricted in its powers, and each, within its sphere of action prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, independent of the other. But, after the return is made, and the State judge or court judicially apprized that the party is in custody under the authority of the United States, they can proceed no further. They then know that the prisoner is within the dominion and jurisdiction of another government, and that neither the writ of habeas corpus, nor any other process issued under State authority, can pass over the line of division between the two sovereignties. He is then within the dominion and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States. If he has committed an offence against their laws, their tribunals alone can punish him. If he is wrongfully imprisoned, their judicial tribunals can release him and afford him redress. And although, as we have said, it is the duty of the marshal, or other person holding him, to make known, by a proper return, the authority under which he detains him, it is at the same time imperatively his duty to obey the process of the United States, to hold the prisoner in custody under it, and to refuse obedience to the mandate or process of any other government. And, consequently, it is his duty not to take the prisoner, nor suffer him to be taken, before a State judge or court upon a habeas corpus issued under State authority. No State judge or court, after they are judicially informed that the party is imprisoned under the authority of the United States, has any right to interfere with him, or to require him to be brought before them. And if the authority of a State, in the form of judicial process or otherwise, should attempt to control the marshal or other authorized officer or agent of the United States, in any respect, in the custody of his prisoner, it would be his duty to resist it, and to call to his aid any force that might be necessary to maintain the authority of law against illegal interference. No judicial process, whatever form it may assume, can have any lawful authority outside of the limits of the jurisdiction of the court or judge by whom it is issued; and an attempt to enforce it beyond these boundaries is nothing less than lawless violence."