Snow v. United States
85 U.S. 317 (1873)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Snow v. United States, 85 U.S. 18 Wall. 317 317 (1873)

Snow v. United States

85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 317

Syllabus

Under the Organic Act of September 9, 1850, organizing the Territory of Utah, the attorney general of the territory, elected by the legislature thereof, and not the district attorney of the United States, appointed by the President, is entitled to prosecute persons accused of offenses against the laws of the territory.

By the Organic Act passed September 9, 1850, establishing the Territory of Utah, it was enacted:

"SECTION 6. The legislative power shall extend to all rightful subjects of legislation consistent with the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act."

By the ninth section, the judicial power was vested in a supreme court, district courts, probate courts, and justices of the peace, whose jurisdiction was to be limited by law,

Page 85 U. S. 318

provided that justices should not try land titles nor cases exceeding $100 in amount, and that the Supreme and district courts should possess chancery as well as common law jurisdiction. Each district court was invested with the same jurisdiction in cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States as is vested in the circuit and district courts of the United States, and the first six days in each term were appropriated to such cases.

Another section thus enacted:

"An attorney general shall be elected by the joint vote of the legislative assembly, whose term of office shall be one year unless sooner removed by the legislative assembly or until his successor is elected and qualified. It shall be the duty of the attorney general to attend to all legal business on the part of the territory before the courts where the territory is a party and prosecute individuals accused of crime in the judicial district in which he keeps his office in cases arising under the laws of the territory, and such other duties as pertain to his office."

Another section provided for the election of district attorneys, whose duty it was made to

"attend to legal business before the courts in their respective districts where the territory is a party, prosecute individuals accused of crimes in cases arising under the laws of the territory, and do such other duties as pertain to their office."

Then, following all, was:

"SECTION 10. There shall be appointed as attorney for said territory, who shall continue in office for four years unless sooner removed by the President and who shall receive the same fees and salary as the attorney of the United States for the present Territory of Oregon. There shall also be a marshal."

The marshal's duties were defined, being declared to be to execute all process issuing from the courts constituted by the act, when exercising their jurisdiction as circuit and district courts of the United States. But about the duties of the district attorney of the United States, to be appointed as above mentioned, nothing at all was said.

In this state of things, the legislative assembly, by joint

Page 85 U. S. 319

vote, on the 19th of January, 1869, elected Zerubbabel Snow, "attorney general of the territory," and on the 3d of April, 1870, the President of the United States appointed C. H. Hempstead, to be "the attorney of the United States" for the same territory.

Hereupon, Mr. Snow having undertaken to prosecute in one of the district courts of the territory certain offenders "against the laws of said territory," a quo warranto was issued by the United States on the relation of Mr. Hempstead against him, the purpose of the writ being to have it judicially settled which of the two persons -- whether the attorney of the United States for the said territory, appointed by the President, or "the attorney general of the territory," elected by its legislature -- was entitled to prosecute in Utah persons accused of offenses against the laws of the territory.

The supreme court of the territory, assuming that the Supreme Court and the district courts of Utah was courts of the United States, were of the opinion that the attorney of the United States was the proper person, and adjudged accordingly.

The Attorney General of Utah thereupon brought the case here.

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