Ex Parte Grossman
267 U.S. 87 (1925)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ex Parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87 (1925)

Ex Parte Grossman

No. 24, Original

Argued December 1, 1924

Decided March 2, 1925

267 U.S. 87

Syllabus

1. A criminal contempt, committed by disobedience of an injunction issued by the District Court to abate a nuisance in pursuance of

Page 267 U. S. 88

the Prohibition Law, is an "offence against the United States," within the meaning of Article II, 2, Cl. 1 of the Constitution, and pardonable by the President thereunder. P. 267 U. S. 108.

2. Before our Revolution, the King of England had always exercised the power to pardon criminal contempts, the pardon being efficatious insofar as punishment was imposed in the public interest, to vindicate the authority of the King and Court (criminal contempt), but not insofar as imposed to secure the rights of a suitor (civil contempt). P. 267 U. S. 110.

3. The like distinction between criminal and civil contempts is clearly made in our law. P. 267 U. S. 111.

4. The history of the pardon clause in the Constitutional Convention, cited to show that the words "offences against the United States" therein were intended, presumably, to distinguish between offences against the General Government and offences against the States, and not to narrow the scope of a pardon as known in the common law. P. 267 U. S. 112.

5. There is no substantial difference in this matter between the executive power of pardon in our Government and the King's prerogative. P. 267 U. S. 113.

6. Nor does the ruling of this Court in United States v. Hudson, 7 Cranch 32, limiting the exercise of ordinary federal criminal jurisdiction to crimes defined by Congress, afford reason for confining "offences against the United States," in the pardon clause to statutory crimes and misdemeanors. P. 267 U. S. 114.

7. Construction of "offences against the United States" in the pardon clause as including criminal contempts accords with the ordinary meaning of the words, and is not inconsistent with other parts of the Constitution where the term "offence" and the narrower terms "crimes" and "criminal prosecutions" appear. Art. I, 8; Amendments V and VI. P. 267 U. S. 115.

8. The power of the President to pardon criminal contempts is sustained by long practice and acquiescence. P. 267 U. S. 118.

9. The contention that to admit the power of the President to pardon criminal contempts (not to interfere with coercive measures of the courts to enforce the rights of suitors) would tend to destroy the independence of the Judiciary and would violate the principle of separation of the three departments of the Government is considered and rejected. P. 267 U. S. 119.

Rule in habeas corpus made absolute, and prisoner discharged.

Habeas corpus, original in this Court, to try the constitutionality of petitioner's confinement notwithstanding a

Page 267 U. S. 89

pardon granted by the President. The petitioner was found guilty by the District Court of having disobeyed a temporary injunction, issued under the Prohibition Act, forbidding illicit traffic in liquors on certain premises. He was sentenced by the District Court to pay a fine and to imprisonment for one year in the Chicago House of Correcting -- a judgment which was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals. 280 Fed. 683. The President issued a pardon commuting the sentence to the fine upon condition that the fine were paid; which was done. Having been thereupon released from custody, the petitioner was again committed by the District Court, upon the ground that the pardon was ineffectual, 1 Fed.2d 941. He then sought this writ of habeas corpus, directed to Graham, the Superintendent of the House of Correction.

Page 267 U. S. 107

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