United States v. Bitty
208 U.S. 393 (1908)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Bitty, 208 U.S. 393 (1908)

United States v. Bitty

No. 503

Submitted January 27, 1908

Decided February 24, 1908

208 U.S. 393

Syllabus

It is within the power of Congress to determine the regulations and exceptions under which this Court shall exercise appellate jurisdiction in cases other than those in which this Court has original jurisdiction and to which the judicial power of the United States extends, and the Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246, permitting the United States to prosecute a writ of error directly from this Court to the District or Circuit Courts in criminal cases in which an indictment may be quashed or demurrer thereto sustained where the decision is based on the invalidity or construction of the statute on which the indictment is based, is not unconstitutional because it authorizes the United States to bring the case directly to this Court and does not allow the accused so to do when a demurrer to the indictment is overruled.

In construing an act of Congress prohibiting the importation of alien women for prostitution or other immoral purposes, regard must be had to the views commonly entertained among the people of the United States as to what is moral and immoral in the relations between man and woman, and concubinage is generally regarded in this country as immoral.

While penal laws are to be strictly construed, they are not to be construed so strictly as to defeat the obvious intent of the legislature.

While, under the rule of ejusdem generis, the words "or other immoral purpose" would only include a purpose of the same nature as the principal subject to which they were added they do include purposes of the same nature, such as concubinage, when the principal subject is prostitution and the importation of women therefor.

The prohibition in the Alien Immigration Act of February 20, 1907, c. 1134, 34 Stat. 898, against the importation of alien women and girls for the purpose of prostitution or any other immoral purpose includes the importation of an alien woman or girl to live as a concubine with the person importing her.

Page 208 U. S. 394

The facts, which involve the construction of the acts of Congress regulating the immigration of aliens into the United States, are stated in the opinion.

Page 208 U. S. 397

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