United States v. Keitel
211 U.S. 370 (1908)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Keitel, 211 U.S. 370 (1908)

United States v. Keitel

No. 286

Argued October 22, 23, 26, 1908

Decided December 14, 1908

211 U.S. 370

Syllabus

Where an indictment is quashed because the facts charged are not within the statute, the government has an appeal under the Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246.

While abstractly there may be a difference between "interpretation" and "construction," in common usage, the words have the same significance, and "construction," as employed in the Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246, includes interpretation.

Under § 2347-2350, Rev.Stat., a person who is qualified to enter coal lands in his own behalf is prohibited from making an entry ostensibly for himself but in fact as agent for another who is disqualified, and an agreement to obtain land for a disqualified person through entries made by qualified persons constitutes the offense of conspiracy against the United States under § 5440, Rev.Stat.

The provisions of the Revised Statutes in regard to coal lands limit the amount of land to be taken by each person entering, and while there may be no statutory limitation on the right of the entryman to

Page 211 U. S. 371

sell after acquisition, the statute, according to its plain meaning, will be enforced as not permitting a person to acquire land as agent for a disqualified person, and so defeat the purpose of the statute.

A person cannot enter land through an agent, even though the agency be undisclosed, if he is disqualified to enter the land himself.

The authoritative construction of a statute in a civil case may be applied in a criminal case subsequently arising; although United States v. Trinidad Coal Co.,137 U. S. 160, was a suit to annul patents to coal lands, the decision in that case that qualified persons cannot enter coal lands under § 2347-2350, Rev.Stat., as agents, or on behalf of, disqualified persons, will be followed as to the construction of those statutes in sustaining indictments under § 5440 for conspiracy to defraud the United States by obtaining coal lands by entries in violation of the statutes as so construed.

A charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States under § 5440, Rev.Stat., can be predicated on acts made criminal after the enactment of the statute. Hyde v. Shine,199 U. S. 62.

Even though a word may have a common law significance which should control if the word stood alone, in the construction of a statute, the word must be given the broader meaning resulting from the words with which it is accompanied, and so held that the word "defraud," in § 5440, Rev.Stat., when construed in connection with the accompanying words "in any manner or for any purpose," includes obtaining public lands in violation of the statutes as to quantities to be taken by, and qualifications of, entrymen, notwithstanding the United States be paid the price of the lands. Hyde v. Shine,199 U. S. 62.

An amendment to a statute will be construed to relate to the present subject thereof, and not to be new legislation in regard to other subjects, and the Act of July 7, 1898, c. 578, 30 Stat. 718, amending § 4746, Rev.Stat., related solely to the subject of pensions and bounty land claims, and simply extended the statute to the use of fraudulent papers in regard to such claims, and a violation of its provisions as amended cannot arise from acts in connection with entries other than those on pensions and bounty claims.

Under the Act of March 2, 1907, c. 2564, 34 Stat. 1246, this Court, on direct writ of error, only has jurisdiction to review the particular questions decided by the court below for which the statute provides, and the whole case is not open to review.

157 F. 396 reversed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 211 U. S. 379

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