Frisbie v. United States,
157 U.S. 160 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160 (1895)

Frisbie v. United States

No. 811

Argued and submitted March 4, 1895

Decided March 18, 1895

157 U.S. 160


The omission of the formal endorsement of an indictment as "a true bill," signed by the foreman of the grand jury, is not necessarily and under all circumstances fatal, although it is advisable that the indictment should be endorsed.

Such a defect is waived if the objection be not made in the first instance and before trial.

Pleading to an indictment admits its genuineness as a record.

The provision in the Act of June 27, 1890, c. 634, 26 Stat. 182, forbidding an agent, attorney, or other person engaged in preparing, presenting, or prosecuting a claim for a pension under that act from demanding or receiving a greater fee than ten dollars for his services is constitutional.

An indictment for violating that provision which describes the defendant as a "lawyer" is sufficient.

The offense against that act is committed when a sum greater than ten dollars has been taken, without regard to the fact whether the pension money has or has not been received.

When the amount of the excess so taken is unknown to the grand jury, it is proper to allege that fact in the indictment.

Page 157 U. S. 161

It is unnecessary to aver a demand for the return of the money wrongfully taken.

The omission to charge that the offense was "contrary to the form of the statutes in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the United States" is immaterial.

On June 27, 1890, Congress passed an act, 26 Stat. 182, c. 634, the fourth section of which is as follows:

"That no agent, attorney, or other person engaged in preparing, presenting, or prosecuting any claim under the provisions of this act shall directly or indirectly contract for, demand, receive, or retain for such services in preparing, presenting, or prosecuting such claim a sum greater than ten dollars, which sum shall be payable only upon the order of the Commissioner of Pensions, by the pension agent making payment of the pension allowed, and any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this section, or who shall wrongfully withhold from a pensioner or claimant the whole or any part of a pension or claim allowed or due such pensioner or claimant under this act, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall, for each and every such offense, be fined not exceeding five hundred dollars, or be imprisoned at hard labor not exceeding two years, or both, in the discretion of the court."

Under this statute, an indictment was returned to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the first count of which is as follows:

"The grand jurors of the United States of America, duly impaneled and sworn, in and for the Eastern District of Louisiana, in the said circuit court, on their oath present that Henry N. Frisbie, late of the Eastern District of Louisiana, lawyer, on the third day of January, A.D. eighteen hundred and ninety-four at the City of New Orleans, in the Eastern District of Louisiana, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, then and there being a person engaged in preparing, presenting, and prosecuting a claim for pension upon the said United States _____ entitled 'An act granting pensions to soldiers and sailors who are incapacitated for the performance of manual labor, and providing for pensions to widows, minor

Page 157 U. S. 162

children, and dependent parents,' approved June 27, 1890, to-wit, a claim made by and on behalf of one Julia Johnson, under the said act of Congress, as the widow of Lewis Johnson, deceased, late a soldier in the military service of the United States during the war of the Rebellion, to-wit, a private in Co. C, 87 Reg., Co. B, 84 U.S.C. Vol. Inf., feloniously and wrongfully did violate the provisions of the fourth section of the said act of Congress in that he did then and there feloniously and wrongfully demand, receive, and retain of and from the said claimant, Julia Johnson, for his said services in preparing, presenting, and prosecuting her said claim for pension aforesaid, a sum of money greater than ten dollars, the exact amount thereof being to the jurors aforesaid unknown."

To this indictment the defendant demurred

"on the ground that the law under which said indictment was found is unconstitutional and void, for the reason that Congress has no power to regulate the price of labor, nor impair the obligation of contracts. 2. that only the pensioner can make complaint. No case can be maintained unless affidavit is made by pensioner. 3. Charge is not sustained by the claim set out."

The demurrer having been overruled, he entered a plea of not guilty. A trial was had which resulted in a verdict of guilty. A motion for a new trial having been overruled, the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for three months. To reverse such judgment he sued out this writ of error.

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