Robb v. Connolly,
111 U.S. 624 (1884)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Robb v. Connolly, 111 U.S. 624 (1884)

Robb v. Connolly

Submitted April 7, 1884

Decided May 5, 1884

111 U.S. 624


An agent, appointed by the state in which a fugitive from justice stands charged with crime, to receive such fugitive from the state by which he is surrendered, is not an officer of the United States within the meaning of former adjudications of this Court.

Page 111 U. S. 625

Congress has not undertaken to invest the judicial tribunals of the United States with exclusive jurisdiction of issuing writs of habeas corpus in proceedings for the arrests of fugitives from justice, and their delivery to the authorities of the state in which they stand charged with crime.

Subject to the exclusive and paramount authority of the national government by its own judicial tribunals to determine whether persons held in custody by authority of the courts of the United States, or by commissioners of such courts, or by officers of the general government acting under its laws, are so held in conformity with law, the states have the right, by their own courts or by the judges thereof, to inquire into the grounds upon which any person, within their respective territorial limits, is restrained of his liberty and to discharge him if it be ascertained that such restraint is illegal, and this notwithstanding such illegality may arise from a violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States.

On the 29th day of November, 1883, one C. H. Bayley was arrested in the City of San Francisco, California, and delivered to W. L. Robb, who had been empowered by the Governor of the State of Oregon to take and receive him from the proper authorities of the State of California, and convey him to the former state, to be there dealt with according to law. The arrest and delivery were in pursuance of the warrant of the Governor of California, as follows:

"STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Executive Department"

"The people of the State of California to any sheriff, constable,"

"marshal, or policeman of this state, greeting:"

"Whereas it has been represented to me by the Governor of the State of Oregon that C. H. Bayley stands charged with the crime of embezzlement, committed in the County of Clatsop, in said state, and that he has fled from the justice of that state, and has taken refuge in the State of California, and the said Governor of the State of Oregon having, in pursuance of the Constitution and laws of the United States, demanded of me that I shall cause the said C. H. Bayley to be arrested and delivered to W. L. Robb, who is authorized to receive him into his custody and convey him back to said State of Oregon;"

"And whereas the said representation and demand is accompanied by a certified copy of the information filed in the office of the justice of the peace of the precinct of Astoria, Clatsop County, State of Oregon, whereby the said C. H. Bayley stands charged with said crime, and with having fled from said state and taken

Page 111 U. S. 626

refuge in the State of California, which is certified by the Governor of the State of Oregon to be authentic:"

"You are therefore required to arrest and secure the said C. H. Bayley wherever he may be found within this state and to deliver him into the custody of the said W. L. Robb, to be taken back to the state from which he fled, pursuant to the said requisition, he, the said W. L. Robb, defraying all costs and expenses incurred in the arrest and securing of said fugitive. You will make return to this department of the manner in which this warrant has been executed."

"In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the great seal of the state to be affixed, this, the twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-three."



"Governor of the State of California"

"By A. E. SHATTUCK, Deputy"

"By the Governor:"

"THOS. L. THOMPSON, Secretary of State"

Bayley sued out a writ of habeas corpus from the judge of the Superior Court for the City and County of San Francisco directed to Robb and commanding him to have the body of the petitioner before said judge, together with the time and cause of his detention, etc. His application for the writ proceeded upon the ground that the imprisonment and detention were illegal in that "no copy of an indictment found or affidavit made before a magistrate charging petitioner with any crime was produced to the governor of California," and consequently that the warrant of arrest was issued without compliance with the act of Congress. Robb made return that he held Bayley "under the authority of the United States," as evidence whereof he produced a copy of the warrant of the Governor of California, with his commission from the Governor of Oregon authorizing him to take and receive the prisoner as a fugitive from justice. He refused

"to produce said C. H. Bayley on the ground that under the laws of the United States, he ought not to produce said prisoner because the honorable superior court has no

Page 111 U. S. 627

power or authority to proceed in the premises."

For this refusal -- the court finding that the body of the petitioner could be produced -- Robb was adjudged guilty of contempt of court, and by order of the judge he was arrested by the sheriff and committed to jail until he "obeys said writ and produces the body of the said C. H. Bayley," or "until he be otherwise legally discharged." He thereupon sued out a writ of habeas corpus from the Supreme Court of California. His application proceeded on the ground that Bayley was in his custody "under and by virtue of the authority of the United States, and that said superior court had no jurisdiction to proceed in the premises," and "his [Robb's] imprisonment is contrary to the laws of the United States, and in excess of the jurisdiction of said court." Upon hearing, the writ was dismissed and Robb remanded to the custody of the sheriff.

"It is no part of our duty," said the Supreme Court of California,

"to decide whether the authority under which Robb holds the prisoner Bayley is sufficient or not. Neither is it incumbent on us to decide whether Bayley is held under the authority of the United States, and, if so, how far it is competent for the court below to inquire into the legality of the proceedings under which he is held. Whether an affidavit or indictment must accompany the requisition or not, whether the recitals in the governor's warrant of arrest are conclusive or simply prima facie evidence of the facts they recite -- all these are matters for the consideration of the court issuing the writ, and before whom the prisoner is to be brought. The only inquiry in this case relates to the power of the court below to compel the production of the body of the prisoner before it so that the cause of his imprisonment and detention can be inquired into, and on this point we have no doubt. It was not the duty of the court issuing the writ, nor was it obliged, to accept as true the return of the party. It was within the jurisdiction of the court at least to inquire into the facts of the case and the alleged cause of detention, and to this end it was proper that the prisoner should be brought into the presence of the court in obedience to the command of the writ, whereupon the prisoner would have had a right to

Page 111 U. S. 628

traverse the return. People v. Donohue, 84 N.Y. 438; People v. Brady, 56 N.Y. 182; Norris v. Newton, 5 McLean 93; State v. Schlemn, 4 Har. (Del.) 577. This the petitioner refused to do, and by such refusal was guilty of a contempt of court."

From the judgment dismissing the writ and remanding Robb to the custody of the sheriff he has prosecuted the present writ of error.

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