Balzac v. Porto Rico
Annotate this Case
258 U.S. 298 (1922)
U.S. Supreme Court
Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922)
Balzac v. Porto Rico
Nos. 178, 179
Argued March 20, 1922
Decided April 10, 1922
258 U.S. 298
1. The Act of January 28, 1915, c. 22, 38 Stat. 803, amending § 246 of the Judicial Code, and providing that writs of error from this Court may be prosecuted to the supreme courts of Porto Rico and Hawaii in the same classes of cases as to the courts of last resort of the states under Jud.Code, § 237, meant to assimilate the jurisdiction over those territorial courts to that over the state courts and is to be construed as embracing subsequent changes in § 237 not obviously inapplicable, such as the amendments made by the Act of September 6, 1916, c. 448, 39 Stat. 726. P. 258 U. S. 300.
2. In prosecutions for criminal libel in a district court of Porto Rico, defendant demanded a jury under the Sixth Amendment, which was denied him upon a construction of local statutes, applicable to this and other misdemeanors. Held that the demand drew in question the validity of the statutes, within the meaning of Jud.Code § 237, as amended in 1916, and that judgments of the Supreme Court of Porto Rico affirming the convictions were reviewable here by writ of error. P. 258 U. S. 302.
3. To present the constitutionality of a statute, it is not essential that an assignment of error should mention the statute in question, if the record definitely shows that its constitutionality was questioned and the assignment is clearly directed to that controversy. P. 258 U. S. 303.
4. The provisions of the Constitution guaranteeing jury trial in all criminal prosecutions do not apply to a territory belonging to the
United States which has not been incorporated into the Union, and Porto Rico was not so incorporated by the Act of April 12, 1900, c.191, 31 Stat. 77, which gave it a temporary government. P. 258 U. S. 304. Dorr v. United States, 195 U. S. 138.
5. The Organic Act for Porto Rico of March 2, 1917, c. 145, 39 Stat. 951, known as the Jones Act, did not have the effect of incorporating Porto Rico into the United States. P. 258 U. S. 305.
6. Since the Spanish War, an intention of Congress to incorporate new territory into the Union is not to be admitted without express declaration or an implication so strong as to exclude any other view. P. 258 U. S. 306.
7. The provisions of § 5 of the Organic Act, supra, for extending federal citizenship to citizens and certain residents of Porto Rico, did not extend the jury system there. P. 258 U. S. 307.
8. Neither can incorporation into the United States be implied from the organization of the United States District Court in Porto Rico, allowance of review of cases from its Supreme Court involving the Constitution, admission of Porto Ricans to the Military and Naval Academies, sale of United States stamps in the Island, or extension to it of federal revenue, navigation, banking, bankruptcy, employers' liability, safety appliance, extradition and census laws. P. 258 U. S. 311.
9. Published reflections on the Governor of Porto Rico held libelous and not legitimate comment protected by the guaranty of free speech and free press in the First Amendment of the Constitution. P. 258 U. S. 314.
28 P.R. 139, 141 affirmed.
Review of two judgments of the Supreme Court of Porto Rico which affirmed judgments of the District Court for Arecibo imposing sentences to imprisonment based on convictions of criminal libel.
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