United States v. Jung Ah Lung
124 U.S. 621 (1888)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Jung Ah Lung, 124 U.S. 621 (1888)

United States v. Jung Ah Lung

Submitted January 9, 1888

Decided February 13, 1888

124 U.S. 621

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

A Chinese laborer who resided in the United States on November 17th, 1880, continued to reside there till October 24th, 1883, when he left San Francisco for China, taking with him a certificate of identification issued to him by the collector of that port, in the form required by the 4th section of the Act of May 6, 1852, c. 126, 22 Stat. 68, which was stolen from him in China, and remained outstanding and uncancelled. Returning from China to San Francisco by a vessel, he was not allowed by the collector to land for want of the certificate, and was detained in custody in the port by the master of the vessel by direction of the customs authorities. On a writ of habeas corpus, issued by the district court of the United States, it appeared that he corresponded in all respects with the description contained in the registration books of the custom house of the person to whom the certificate was issued. He was discharged from custody, and the order of discharge was affirmed by the circuit court.

On appeal to this Court, by the United States, held:

Page 124 U. S. 622

(1) He was in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States, and the district court had jurisdiction to issue the writ.

(2) The jurisdiction of the court was not affected by the fact that the collector had passed on the question of allowing the person to land, or by the fact that the treaty provides for diplomatic action in a case of hardship.

(3) The case of the petitioner was not to be adjudicated under the provisions of the Act of July 5, 1884, c. 220, 23 Stat. 115, where they differed from those of the act of 1882.

(4) In view of the provisions of § 4 of the act of 1882, in regard to a Chinese laborer arriving by sea, as distinguished from those of § 12 of the same act in regard to one arriving by land, the district court was authorized to receive the evidence it did in regard to the identity of the petitioner, and, on the facts it found, to discharge him from custody.

This was a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court below ordered the discharge of the prisoner, from which judgment the United States appealed. The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

MR. JUSTICE BLATCHFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal by the United States from a judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of California, affirming the judgment of the district court of that district in a case of habeas corpus, which ordered the discharge from custody of the person in whose behalf the writ was sued out.

On the 28th of September, 1885, a petition was presented to the district court alleging that Jung Ah Lung, a subject of the Emperor of China, was unlawfully restrained of his liberty by the master of a steamship in the port of San Francisco; he having arrived in that vessel, and not being allowed to land, because it was contended that it was unlawful for him to do so, under the provisions of the acts of Congress on the subject.

On the filing of the petition, a writ of habeas corpus was

Page 124 U. S. 623

issued by the district court to the master of the vessel, commanding him to produce the body of Jung Ah Lung before the court. This was done, and the master made return that he held Jung Ah Lung in his custody, "by direction of the customs authorities of the port of San Francisco, California, under the provisions of the Chinese Restriction Act." On the 12th of October, 1885, by leave of the court, the United States attorney for the district was allowed to file, on behalf of the United States, a special intervention and plea to the jurisdiction of the court. Two questions were raised by it: (1) that Jung Ah Lung was not so restrained of his liberty as to be entitled to the benefit of a writ of habeas corpus (2) that the collector of the port had passed judgment on the matters of law and fact involved, and the same were res adjudicata. To this intervention Jung Ah Lung demurred, and the demurrer was sustained. The opinion of the court is reported in 25 F. 141. It considered the question of jurisdiction, and held that (1) the case was a proper one for the issuing of a writ of habeas corpus (2) the collector was not clothed with exclusive jurisdiction in the premises. It gave leave to the district attorney to file an intervention to the merits, which he did, setting forth that Jung Ah Lung was lawfully refused permission to land in the United States, in compliance with the provisions of acts of Congress, because he failed to produce to the collector the certificate of identification provided for by those acts, and that he was not entitled to land in the United States. The issue thus joined was tried by the court.

There is a bill of exceptions, which states that the counsel for Jung Ah Lung offered to prove that he was a Chinese laborer, residing in the United States on November 17, 1880, the date of the last treaty between the United States and the Emperor of China; that he resided in the United States continuously until October 24, 1883, when, being about to return to China, he received from the collector of San Francisco a certificate enabling him to reenter the United States, in conformity with the act of Congress of May 6, 1882, c. 126, 22 Stat. 58; that he departed for China, taking such duplicate with him; that he remained in China until he embarked for

Page 124 U. S. 624

San Francisco, on August 25, 1885; that prior thereto, and in June, 1885, he was deprived of said certificate by its being taken from him by robbery by pirates in China; that the books in the registration office of the custom house in San Francisco showed that the certificate was issued to him; that no one had presented it or entered upon it, and it was uncancelled, and that he conformed in every particular with the description kept in such registration office of the person to whom such certificate was issued. The district attorney objected to the introduction of this testimony as incompetent, on the ground that the statute provided that the certificate should be the only evidence permissible to establish the right of a Chinese laborer to reenter the United States, and that no secondary evidence of the loss and contents of the certificate could be received. The objection was overruled by the court. The district attorney excepted to the ruling, and the evidence was received.

The district court filed the following findings:

"Counsel for applicant proceeded to introduce testimony, by which it appeared to the satisfaction of this Court, and this Court so finds that, Jung Ah Lung is a Chinese laborer, being one of the proprietors of a laundry situated at No. 1391 Second Avenue, New York City; that he was a resident of the United States on the 17th day of November, A.D. 1880, the date of the last treaty between the United States and the Empire of China, and that he resided continuously in the United States until on or about the 24th day of October, A.D. 1883, when he sailed for China on the steamer Rio de Janeiro; that, before sailing for China, he duly applied for and received from the collector of customs for the district of San Francisco a certificate of identification, stating his name, age, occupation, last place of residence, physical marks and peculiarities, and all facts necessary for his identification in conformity to the act of Congress entitled 'An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese,' approved May 6, 1882; that he departed on said steamer for China, having in his possession, and taking away with him, the said certificate; that during the month of June, A.D. 1885, while on a voyage from

Page 124 U. S. 625

his native village to the City of Canton, China, the junk upon which he was a passenger was attacked by pirates in waters notoriously infested with piratical craft, who deprived said Jung Ah Lung of said certificate entitling said applicant to reenter the United States; that no one has presented said certificate at this port, and said certificate is outstanding, and remains uncancelled on the books of the custom house for the district of San Francisco; that the applicant corresponds in all respects to the description contained in the registration books of the custom house of the person to whom the said certificate was issued, and that no doubt can be entertained that the applicant is the person to whom the said certificate was issued and delivered; that it was not suggested by the district attorney, nor contended by him, that the proof, if admissible, failed to establish, in the most satisfactory manner, the facts herein found by the court, and he claimed that the applicant should be remanded solely on the ground that the testimony offered by the applicant could not, under the provisions of the acts of Congress known as the 'Restriction Acts,' be received in evidence. Whereupon the court, being of opinion that the said proofs were admissible, and fully established the facts as claimed by the applicant, ordered that he be discharged."

The district attorney filed the following exceptions to the findings:

"1st. That the court had no authority or jurisdiction to issue a writ in this case, as the applicant was not restrained of his liberty within the true intent and meaning of the act of Congress known as the 'Habeas Corpus Act.'"

"2d. That the court, on the return of said writ of habeas corpus, had no authority or jurisdiction to inquire into and decide upon the lawfulness of said alleged restraint, for the reason that the same had been decided to be lawful by the collector of the port of San Francisco, or his deputy."

"3d. For the reason hereinbefore set forth, the said testimony as to the issuance, loss, and contents of the certificate mentioned aforesaid, and the evidence of the fact that the applicant is the identical person to whom said certificate was issued, is inadmissible, under the provisions of the said Restriction

Page 124 U. S. 626

Acts, and that the applicant, having failed to produce his certificate, is not now entitled to enter the United States."

On the 5th of November, 1885, the district court entered a judgment discharging Jung Ah Lung from custody. The United States appealed to the circuit court from the judgment, and from the rulings objected to by the United States on the trial, and especially from the order sustaining the demurrer to the special intervention and plea to the jurisdiction, and from the rulings admitting other testimony than the certificate to establish the right of Jung Ah Lung to come into the United States. The circuit court affirmed the judgment, as before stated, and from its judgment this appeal is taken.

It is contended for the United States that there was no jurisdiction in the district court to issue the writ in the first instance, because the party was not restrained of his liberty within the meaning of the habeas corpus statute. It is urged that the only restraint of the party was that he was not permitted to enter the United States. But we are of opinion that the case was a proper one for the issuing of the writ. The party was in custody. The return of the master was that he held him in custody by direction of the customs authorities of the port under the provisions of the Chinese Restriction Act. That was an act of Congress. He was therefore in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States within the meaning of § 753 of the Revised Statutes. He was so held in custody on board of a vessel within the City and County of San Francisco. The case was one falling within the provisions of chapter 13 of Title 13 of the Revised Statutes.

It is also urged that if the right to issue the writ existed otherwise, under the general provisions of the Revised Statutes, that right was taken away by the Chinese Restriction Act, which regulated the entire subject matter and was necessarily exclusive. The Act of May 6, 1882, c. 126 (22 Stat. 58), entitled "An act to execute certain treaty stipulations relating to Chinese," as originally passed, and as amended by the Act of July 5, 1884, c. 220, 23 Stat. 115, is set forth in the margin, the words in italics being introduced by the act of 1884, while

Page 124 U. S. 627

those in brackets were in the act of 1882, and were stricken out by the act of 1884. 124 U. S. S. 628

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