Keene v. United States
9 U.S. 304 (1809)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Keene v. United States, 9 U.S. 5 Cranch 304 304 (1809)

Keene v. United States

9 U.S. (5 Cranch) 304

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT

OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

Decided that the trial of seizures under the Act of 18 February, 1793, "for enrolling and licensing ships or vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same," is to be in the judicial district in which the seizure was made, without regard to the district where the forfeiture accrued.

Page 9 U. S. 304

Error to the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, in a case of seizure of certain merchandise, being part of the cargo of the schooner Sea Flower, Matthew Keene, claimant, imported from the Havana, in the Island of Cuba, into the port of Vienna, in the District of Maryland, the vessel having sailed on a foreign voyage under a coasting license. The goods having been landed at Vienna, were transported to Alexandria, in the District of Columbia, where they were seized by the collector of that port, and libeled and condemned in the district court of that district, whose sentence was affirmed by the circuit court.

Page 9 U. S. 309

LIVINGSTON, J. delivered the opinion of the Court as follows:

This is a seizure on land by the collector of the port of Alexandria for a breach of the act for enrolling and licensing ships or vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries and for regulating the same, passed 18 February, 1793.

The breach alleged is that a certain schooner called the Sea Flower, duly enrolled and licensed, sailed to a foreign port without having first given up her enrollment and license and without being duly registered. That on her return voyage there were imported in the said schooner from the Havana into the port of Vienna, in the District of Maryland, certain goods, and thence transported to the Town of Alexandria, in the District of Columbia and within the Collection District of Alexandria. The goods were condemned by the circuit court, and the only error relied on is that there is no law authorizing a condemnation in a district different from that in which the forfeiture accrued.

The 35th section of the act under which the seizure was made declares that all penalties incurred thereby shall be sued for in the same manner as penalties incurred by virtue of an act entitled

"An act to regulate the collection of the duties imposed by law on goods, wares and merchandises imported into the United States and on the tonnage of ships or vessels."

On examining the different acts of Congress on this subject, there is none whose title exactly corresponds with the reference here made. It is contended

Page 9 U. S. 310

by the counsel for the United States that the act here intended, although it does not bear, in terms, the same title, is the one regulating duties which passed 31 July, 1789, and that this does not render it necessary that the trial should be within the district where the forfeiture accrued, while the plaintiff insists that as this act had been repealed several years prior to the passing of the law under which this seizure was made, it is more probable that a reference was intended to another act, on the same subject, of 4 August, 1790, which requires that the trial of any fact which may be put in issue shall be within the judicial district in which any penalty shall have accrued. It is not improbable that this was the law intended, but as the title of neither corresponds with the one given in this act, the Court thinks that the proceedings on forfeitures accruing under it may well be governed by the 9th section of the act to establish the judicial courts of the United States, which confers on the district courts jurisdiction of all seizures under laws of impost, navigation, or trade of the United States when the seizures are made on waters which are navigable from the sea by vessels of ten or more tons burden, within their respective districts, and also of all seizures on land or other waters than as aforesaid made, and of all suits for penalties and forfeitures incurred under the laws of the United States. It is a fair construction of this section, taking the whole together, that nothing more is necessary to give jurisdiction in cases of this nature than that the seizure should be within the district, without any regard to the place where the forfeiture accrued. It would in many cases be attended with much delay and injury, without anyone's advantage, were it necessary to send property for trial to a distant district merely because the forfeiture had been incurred there. The Court feels no disposition to impose these inconveniences on either of the parties unless where it be positively directed by an act of Congress. There being no provision of that kind in the law under which this forfeiture accrued, the Court cannot perceive any error in the proceedings below, and

Page 9 U. S. 311

therefore orders that the judgment of the circuit court be

Affirmed with costs.

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