Anderson v. Dunn
19 U.S. 204 (1821)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Anderson v. Dunn, 19 U.S. 6 Wheat. 204 204 (1821)

Anderson v. Dunn

19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 204

Syllabus

To an action of trespass against the Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives of the United States, for an assault and battery and false imprisonment, it is a legal justification and bar to plead that a Congress was held and sitting during the period of the trespasses complained of, and that the House of Representatives had resolved that the plaintiff had been guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House, and of a high contempt of the dignity and authority of the same, and had ordered that the Speaker should issue his warrant to the Sergeant at Arms commanding him to take the plaintiff into custody, wherever to be found, and to have him before the said House to answer to the said charge, and that the Speaker did accordingly issue such a warrant, reciting the said resolution and order and commanding the Sergeant at Arms to take the plaintiff into custody, &c., and delivered the said warrant to the defendant, by virtue of which warrant the defendant arrested the plaintiff and conveyed him to the bar of the House, where he was heard in his defence touching the matter of the said charge, and the examination being adjourned from day to day, and the House having ordered the plaintiff to be detained in custody, he was accordingly detained by the defendant until he was finally adjudged to be guilty and convicted of the charge aforesaid, and ordered to be forthwith brought to the bar and reprimanded by the Speaker, and then discharged from custody, and, after being thus reprimanded, was actually discharged from the arrest and custody aforesaid.

This was an action of trespass, brought in the Court below, by the plaintiff in error, against the defendant in error, for an assault and battery, and false imprisonment, to which the defendant pleaded the general issue, and a special plea of justification. The

Page 19 U. S. 205

plaintiff demurred generally to the special plea, which was adjudged good, and the demurrer overruled, and judgment upon such demurrer was entered for the defendant, and a writ of error brought by the plaintiff. The question arising upon the demurrer will be best explained by giving the defendant's plea at large, as pleaded and adjudged good upon general demurrer, in the Circuit Court, viz.:

"And the said Thomas, by the leave of the Court here first had, further defends the force and injury, when, &c. And as to the coming with force and arms, or whatsoever is against the peace; and also as to the assaulting, beating, bruising, battering, and ill-treating of the said John, in manner and form as the said John, in his said declaration, hath above supposed to be done, the said Thomas saith that he is not guilty thereof; and of this he, as before, puts himself upon the country; and as to the imprisonment of the said John, and the keeping and detaining him in confinement, at the time in the said declaration mentioned, to-wit, on the said eighth day of January, in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighteen, and for the space of two months in the said declaration mentioned, the said Thomas saith that the said John ought not to have or maintain his action aforesaid against him, because he saith that long before and at the said time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, and during all the time in the said declaration mentioned, a Congress of the United States was holden at the City of Washington, in the County of Washington, and District of Columbia aforesaid, and was then and there,

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and during all the time aforesaid, assembled and sitting, and that, long before and at the time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, and during all the time in the said declaration mentioned, he the said Thomas was, and yet is, Sergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives (then and there being one of the Houses whereof the said Congress of the United States consisted), and, by virtue of his said office, and by the tenor and effect of the standing rules and orders ordained and established by the said House for the determining of the rules of its proceedings, and by the force and effect of the laws and customs of the said House, and of the said Congress, was then and there, and during all the time aforesaid, and yet is duly authorized and required, amongst other things, to execute the commands of the said House, from time to time, together with all such process issued by authority thereof, as shall be directed to him by the Speaker of the said House; and that long before, and at the time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, and during all the time in the declaration mentioned, one Henry Clay was, and yet is, the Speaker of the said House of Representatives, and by virtue of his said office, and by the tenor and effect of such standing rules and orders as aforesaid, and by the force and effect of such laws and customs as aforesaid, then and there, and during all the time aforesaid, was and yet is, amongst other things, duly authorized and required to subscribe with his proper hand, and to seal with his seal, all writs, warrants, and subpoenas issued by order of the said House: and that long before and

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at the time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, and during all the time in the said declaration mentioned, one Thomas Dougherty was, and yet is, the Clerk of the said House of Representatives; and by virtue of his said office, and by the tenor and effect of such standing rules and orders as aforesaid, and by the force and effect of such laws and customs as aforesaid, then and there, and during all the time aforesaid, was and yet is, amongst other things, duly authorized and required to attest and subscribe with his proper hand, all such writs, warrants, and subpoenas issued by order of the said house: and that long before, and at the time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, and during all the time in the said declaration mentioned, and ever since, it was and yet is, amongst other things, ordained, established, and practised, by and under such standing rules and orders as aforesaid, and such laws and customs as aforesaid, that all writs, warrants, subpoenas, and other process issued by order of the said House, shall be under the hand and seal of the said Speaker of the said House, and attested by the said Clerk of the said House; and so being under the hand and seal of the said Speaker, and attested by the said Clerk as aforesaid, shall be executed, pursuant to the tenor and effect of the same, by the said "

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Sergeant at Arms; and the said Thomas, the defendant, further saith, that the said Henry Clay, so being such Speaker of the said House of Representatives as aforesaid, and the said Thomas Dougherty, so being such Clerk of the same House as aforesaid, and he the said defendant,

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so being such Sergeant at Arms of the same House as aforesaid, and the said Congress, so being assembled and sitting as aforesaid, heretofore and before the said time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, to-wit, on the seventh day of January, in the year aforesaid, at Washington aforesaid, in the county and district aforesaid, it was, in and by the said House, for good and sufficient cause to the same appearing, resolved and ordered, pursuant to the tenor and effect of such standing rules and orders so ordained and established as aforesaid, and according to the force and effect of such laws and customs as aforesaid, that the said John had been guilty of a breach of the privileges of the said House, and of a high contempt of the dignity and authority of the same; wherefore, it was then and there, in and by the said house, further resolved and ordered, in the like pursuance of such standing rules and orders as aforesaid, and of such laws and customs as aforesaid, that the said Speaker should forthwith issue his warrant, directed to the Sergeant at Arms, commanding him to take into custody the body of the said John, wherever to be found, and the same forthwith to have before the said House, at the bar thereof, then and there to answer to the said charge, &c. as by the journal, record, and proceedings of the said resolutions and order in the said House remaining, reference being thereto had, will more fully appear. Whereupon, the said Henry Clay, so being such Speaker as aforesaid, in pursuance of such standing rules and orders as aforesaid, and according to such laws and customs as aforesaid, did, for

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the execution of the resolutions and order aforesaid, afterwards, and before the time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, to-wit, on the said seventh day of January, in the year aforesaid, at Washington aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, as such Speaker as aforesaid, duly make and issue his certain warrant, under his hand and seal, duly directed to the said Thomas, the defendant, as such Sergeant at Arms as aforesaid (to whom, so being such Sergeant at Arms as aforesaid, the execution of such warrant then and there belonged) and by the said Thomas Dougherty, so being such Clerk as aforesaid; in and by said warrant, reciting that the said House of Representatives had, that day, resolved and adjudged, that the said John Anderson had been guilty of a breach of the privileges of the said House, and of a high contempt of its dignity and authority; and that the said House had thereupon ordered the said Speaker to issue his warrant, directed to the said Sergeant at Arms, commanding him, the said Sergeant, to take into custody the body of the said John Anderson, wherever to be found, and the same forthwith to have before the said House, at the bar thereof, then and there to answer to the said charge; therefore, it was required that the said Thomas, the defendant, as such Sergeant as aforesaid, should take into his custody the body of the said John Anderson, and then forthwith to bring him before the said House, at the bar thereof, then and there to answer to the charge aforesaid, and to be dealt with by the said House, according to the constitution and laws of the United States: and said

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Henry Clay, so being such Speaker as aforesaid, then and there, and before the said time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, delivered the said warrant to the said Thomas, so being such Sergeant as aforesaid, to be executed in due form of law. By virtue, and in execution of which said warrant, the said Thomas, as such Sergeant as aforesaid, afterwards, to-wit, at the said time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, at Washington aforesaid, in order to arrest the said John, and convey him in custody to the bar of the said House, to answer to the charge aforesaid, and to be dealt with by the said House, according to the constitution and laws of the United States, in obedience to the resolutions and order aforesaid, and to the tenor and

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effect of the said warrant, so issued as aforesaid, went to the said John, and then and there gently laid his hands on the said John to arrest him, and did then and there arrest him by his body, and take him into custody, and did then forthwith convey him to the bar of the said House, as it was lawful for the said Thomas to do for the cause aforesaid: and thereupon such proceedings were had, in and by the said House, that the said John was then and there forthwith duly examined, and heard in his defence, before the said House, at the bar thereof, touching the matter of the said charge; and that such examination was, in and by the said House, and by the resolutions and orders of the same, duly adjourned and continued from day to day, from the said time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, until the sixteenth day of January, in the

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year aforesaid; which said examinations were then so adjourned and continued, as aforesaid, from necessity, in order to go through and conclude the examination and defence of the said John, touching the matter of the said charge, before the said House; neither the said examination, nor the said defence, having been finished or concluded before the day last aforesaid: during all which time, to-wit, from the said time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, until the day last aforesaid, it was, in and by the said House, duly resolved and ordered, from day to day, as the said examination was adjourned and continued as aforesaid, that the said John should be remanded, kept, and detained in the custody of the said Thomas, as such Sergeant as aforesaid, by virtue and in execution of the said warrant, in order to have such his examinations and defence finished and concluded, in due form; and the said Thomas, as such Sergeant as aforesaid, afterwards, to-wit, at and from the said time when, &c. in the introduction of this plea mentioned, until the said sixteenth day of January, in the year aforesaid, did, in pursuance of the last mentioned resolutions and orders of said House, and by virtue, and in execution of the said warrant, keep and detain the said John in custody as aforesaid, and him did bring and have, from day to day, during the said time, before the said House, at the bar thereof, in order to undergo such examinations as aforesaid, and to be heard in his defence aforesaid, touching the matter of the said charge, to-wit, at Washington aforesaid, in the county aforesaid, as it was also lawful for him, the

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said Thomas, to do for the cause aforesaid: and thereupon afterwards, to-wit, on the said last mentioned sixteenth day of January, in the year aforesaid, such further proceedings were had in and by the said House, that it was then and there finally resolved and adjudged, in and by the said House, that the said John was guilty, and convict of the charge aforesaid, in the form aforesaid; and that he be forthwith brought to the bar of the said House, and there reprimanded by the said Speaker, for the outrage by the said John committed, and then that he be forthwith discharged from the custody of the said Sergeant at Arms: and thereupon the said John was then and there, in pursuance of the last mentioned resolutions, order, and judgment, forthwith reprimanded by the said Speaker, and then forthwith discharged from the arrest and custody aforesaid; as by the journals, record, and proceedings of the said resolutions, orders, and judgment in the said House remaining, reference being thereto had, will more fully appear: which are the same several supposed trespasses in the introduction of this plea mentioned, and whereof the said John hath, above in his said declaration, complained against the said Thomas, and not other or different: with this, that the said Thomas doth aver that the said John, the now plaintiff, and the said John Anderson, in the said resolutions, orders, warrant, and judgment respectively mentioned, was, and is, one and the same person: and that at the said several times in this plea mentioned, and during all the time therein mentioned, the said Congress of the United States was

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assembled and sitting, to-wit, at Washington aforesaid, in the county aforesaid: and this the said Thomas is ready to verify: wherefore he prays judgment, if the said John ought to have or maintain his aforesaid action thereof against him, &c.

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