Southworth v. United States,
161 U.S. 639 (1896)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Southworth v. United States, 161 U.S. 639 (1896)

Southworth v. United States

No. 652

Argued and submitted March 3, 1896

Decided March 23, 1896

161 U.S. 639


In an action brought by a circuit court commissioner for the District of Louisiana to recover fees for alleged services rendered the United States in prosecutions under Rev. Stat. § 1986, the Court of Claims found that the prosecutions were the result of a purpose on the part of party managers to purge, as they alleged, the register of illegal voters; that the commissioner made no inquiry or examination of witnesses to satisfy himself of probable cause, but simply issued warrants on the affidavits filed; that the warrants issued were not signed by himself, but by a number of clerks who used a stamp, which was a facsimile of his signature, until the stamp was broken, and then simply wrote his name; that in the issuance of warrants, the commissioner exercised no discretion, and made no personal examination of the complaints or witnesses, but issued a warrant in all cases in which a complaint was made; that the warrants were issued generally for the purpose of affecting the register of votes to be used in the election, and not to arrest and punish offenders; that in a large majority of the 1303 cases in which the defendants were discharged, it did not appear that the commissioner performed any service in investigating the offences charged, nor in judicially determining the guilt or innocence of the parties. Held that these findings justified the further finding of that court that

"from said facts, the court finds the ultimate fact to be that the claimant's testator did not perform the services for the United States in good faith for the purpose of, enforcing the criminal law,"

and the judgment entered thereon in favor of the United States.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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