1. The United States has constitutional power to acquire land
within the exterior limits of a State for a national park. P.
306 U. S.
2. As a general rule, review of a determination of the District
Court affirming its jurisdiction involving imprisonment for crime
is by appellate procedure and not by habeas corpus. P. 306 U. S.
This rule is not one defining power to grant the writ, but one
which relates to the appropriate exercise of power. P. 306 U. S.
3. Habeas corpus may be appropriately granted where jurisdiction
in the criminal case depended upon a question of law, there being
no dispute of facts, and where the need for the inquiry is made
apparent by exceptional circumstances. P. 306 U. S.
Page 306 U. S. 20
Such exceptional circumstances existed in this case, which
involved a sentence by the District Court for murder committed in
the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park, in Georgia. There
appeared to be uncertainty and confusion as to whether offenses
within the Park were triable by the state or the federal courts. It
was represented that murder cases had been tried in each. It did
not appear of record that the District Court had considered the
question of jurisdiction. There had been no appeal, and it was
contended that a reading of the Georgia statute of consent and
cession would show that the United States had not acquired
jurisdiction so as to bring the offense charged in the indictment
within the class of offenses cognizable in the District Court.
4. In habeas corpus by one imprisoned for a murder committed in
the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park in Georgia, the sole
question was whether the United States had exclusive jurisdiction
over land in the Park, in virtue of having acquired it by consent
of or cession from the Georgia legislature.
(1) The federal courts take judicial notice of the Georgia
statutes. P. 306 U. S.
(2) If these statutes did not give to the United States
exclusive jurisdiction over the Park, the indictment did not charge
a crime cognizable under the authority of the United States.
(3) Although, in earlier Acts consenting to acquisitions and
ceding jurisdiction of land for the Park, criminal jurisdiction was
specifically reserved by the State, exclusive jurisdiction was
ceded by the general Act of 1927, purporting to cede exclusive
jurisdiction to the United States over any land
"which has been or may hereafter be acquired for custom-houses,
post-offices, arsenals, other public buildings whatever, or for any
other purposes of government,"
and which reserved the right to serve civil and criminal
processes but not criminal jurisdiction over offenses within the
ceded territory. P. 306 U. S.
(4) This conclusion has support in administrative construction.
P. 306 U. S.
Referring to an opinion of the Judge Advocate General, July 14,
1930, when the Park was in charge of the War Department.
97 F.2d 860 affirmed.
Certiorari, 305 U.S. 579, to review affirmance below of an order
of the District Court denying a petition for a writ of habeas
Page 306 U. S. 21
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
Petitioner was convicted, in 1933, in the District Court of the
Northern District of Georgia, of murder committed in 1930 on the
Government Reservation known as the Chickamauga and Chattanooga
National Park within the exterior limits of the State of Georgia.
He was sentenced to imprisonment for life, and is confined in the
prison at Alcatraz, California.
In 1937, he presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to
the District Judge of the Northern District of California alleging
that the indictment was void, and no legal judgment could be based
thereon, as it failed to show jurisdiction over the person and
subject matter; that the United States did not have exclusive
jurisdiction over the Park. [Footnote 1
] He also alleged that, on his trial, the court
did not have the evidence taken down and preserved so that he might
appeal, and that, upon this ground and others, he had been deprived
of his liberty without due process of law. A copy of the indictment
was annexed to the petition. Pursuant to an order to show cause,
the Warden made return showing the judgment and the record of
commitment. On the return day, there was no appearance of
petitioner's attorneys, and no evidence, apart from the return and
the attached exhibits, was offered. The petition was submitted and
later was denied
Page 306 U. S. 22
without opinion. On appeal, the order was affirmed. Bowen v.
97 F.2d 860.
The principal contention before the Circuit Court of Appeals was
that the United States did not have exclusive jurisdiction over the
Park, and hence that the District Court in Georgia did not have
jurisdiction to try the petitioner. The court, taking the view that
the United States could constitutionally acquire jurisdiction over
the Park (Collins v. Yosemite Park Co., 304 U.
), held that the question whether the United
States did acquire such jurisdiction could not be raised on habeas
corpus. In view of the importance of the question thus presented,
we granted certiorari. October 10, 1938, 305 U.S. 579.
Jurisdiction is conferred upon the District
Courts "of all crimes and offenses cognizable under the authority
of the United States." Jud.Code, § 24, 28 U.S.C. § 41(2).
Crimes are thus cognizable --
"When committed within or on any lands reserved or acquired for
the exclusive use of the United States, and under the exclusive
jurisdiction thereof, or any place purchased or otherwise acquired
by the United States by consent of the legislature of the State in
which the same shall be, for the erection of a fort, magazine,
arsenal, dockyard, or other needful building."
Crim.Code, § 272, 18 U.S.C. § 451, Third.
The last clause covers cases where exclusive jurisdiction is
acquired by the United States pursuant to Article 1, § 8, paragraph
17, of the Constitution.
In the instant case, no question of fact was presented with
respect to the place where the crime was committed. The indictment
specified the place, that is --
"a certain place and on certain lands reserved and acquired for
the exclusive use of the United States and under exclusive
jurisdiction thereof, and acquired by the United States by consent
of the Legislature of the State
Page 306 U. S. 23
of Georgia, to-wit: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park,
sometimes known as Chickmauga and Chattanooga National Military
Park, in said State of Georgia."
The sole question was whether this Park was within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the United States. There is no question that the
United States had the constitutional power to acquire the territory
for the purpose of a national park, and that it did acquire it.
Whether or not the National Government acquired exclusive
jurisdiction over the lands within the Park or the State reserved,
as it could, jurisdiction over the crimes there committed, depended
upon the terms of the consent or cession given by the legislature
of Georgia. Collins v. Yosemite Park Co., supra,
304 U. S. 529
See also James v. Dravo Contracting Co., 302 U.
, 302 U. S.
-148. The federal courts take judicial notice of the
Georgia statutes. Owings v.
9 Pet. 607; Lamar v. Micou,
114 U. S. 218
114 U. S. 223
If these statutes did not give to the United States exclusive
jurisdiction over the Park, the indictment did not charge a crime
cognizable under the authority of the United States.
Where the District Court has jurisdiction of
the person and the subject matter in a criminal prosecution, the
writ of habeas corpus cannot be used as a writ of error. The
judgment of conviction is not subject to collateral attack.
3 Pet. 193, 28 U. S. 203
Ex parte Parks, 93 U. S. 18
93 U. S. 23
Harlan v. McGourin, 218 U. S. 442
218 U. S. 448
McMicking v. Schields, 238 U. S. 99
238 U. S. 107
Riddle v. Dyche, 262 U. S. 333
262 U. S. 335
Craig v. Hecht, 263 U. S. 255
263 U. S. 277
The scope of review on habeas corpus is limited to the examination
of the jurisdiction of the court whose judgment of conviction is
challenged. Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.
, 100 U. S. 375
Ex parte Bigelow, 113 U. S. 328
113 U. S. 331
Matter of Gregory, 219 U. S. 210
219 U. S. 213
Glasgow v. Moyer, 225 U. S. 420
225 U. S. 429
Page 306 U. S. 24
268 U. S. 442
268 U. S. 445
But if it be found that the court had no jurisdiction to try the
petitioner, or that in its proceedings his constitutional rights
have been denied, the remedy of habeas corpus is available.
18 Wall. 163, 85 U. S. 178
Ex parte Crow Dog, 109 U. S. 556
109 U. S. 572
In re Snow, 120 U. S. 274
120 U. S. 285
Ex parte Coy, 127 U. S. 731
127 U. S. 751
127 U. S. 758
Hans Nielsen, Petitioner, 131 U.
, 131 U. S. 182
In re Bonner, 151 U. S. 242
151 U. S. 257
Moore v. Dempsey, 261 U. S. 86
261 U. S. 91
Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U. S. 458
304 U. S.
In applying this principle, we have said that the court "has
jurisdiction to render a particular judgment only when the offense
charged is within the class of offenses placed by the law under its
jurisdiction." In re Bonner, supra.
As it is the duty of
the District Court, when the prosecution is brought before it, to
examine the charge and ascertain whether the offense is of that
class, the District Court is thus empowered to pass upon its own
jurisdiction. This, under the applicable statute, may require
consideration of the place where the offense is alleged to have
been committed. The answer to that question may require the
examination and determination of questions of fact and law and that
determination may be the appropriate subject of appellate review.
Thus, if, construing a statute, a question of law is determined
against the Government on demurrer to the indictment, the case may
fall within the provisions of the Criminal Appeals Act. United
States v. Sutton, 215 U. S. 291
United States v. Soldana, 246 U.
. Or, if decided against the accused, the question
may be reviewed by the Circuit Court of Appeals on appeal from the
judgment of conviction. In considering the distribution of
appellate jurisdiction under the former statute [Footnote 2
] permitting a direct writ of error
from this Court to the District Court, when the question of the
jurisdiction of the latter was the only
Page 306 U. S. 25
question involved, we drew the distinction between the question
of the jurisdiction of the District Court in that aspect and that
of the jurisdiction of the United States. Louie v. United
States, 254 U. S. 548
254 U. S. 550
There, on a charge of murder committed within the limits of an
Indian reservation, the defendant contended that, before the time
of the alleged crime, he had been declared competent, and that the
land on which the crime was alleged to have been committed "had
been allotted and deeded to him in fee simple." "That the District
Court . . . had jurisdiction to determine whether the locus in
was a part of the reservation was not questioned," and the
judgment was held to be reviewable by the Circuit Court of Appeals,
and not directly by this Court. See also Pronovost v. United
States, 232 U. S. 487
Pothier v. Rodman, 261 U. S. 307
261 U. S.
Where, on the face of the record, the District Court has
jurisdiction of the offense and of the defendant and the defendant
contends that, on the facts shown, the crime was not committed at a
place within the jurisdiction of the United States, we have held
that the judgment is one for review by the Circuit Court of Appeals
in error proceedings, and that the writ of habeas corpus is
properly refused. Toy Toy v. Hopkins, 212 U.
, 212 U. S. 549
And, on removal proceedings, we have observed that, in a case where
"whether the locus of the alleged crime was within the exclusive
jurisdiction of the United States demands consideration of many
facts and seriously controverted questions of law,"
these matters "must be determined by the court where the
indictment was found," and that "the regular course may not be
anticipated by alleging want of jurisdiction and demanding a ruling
thereon in a habeas corpus proceeding." Rodman v. Pothier,
264 U. S. 399
264 U. S. 402
See also Henry v. Henkel, 235 U.
, 235 U. S. 229
On the same principle, in Walsh v. Archer,
73 F.2d 197,
where the indictment charged
Page 306 U. S. 26
murder committed on board a vessel on the high seas, the court
affirmed an order dismissing a petition for habeas corpus, it being
contended that the vessel, at the time of the commission of the
crime, was within the State of California and under its
"Whether the location of the alleged crime was upon the high
seas and exclusively within the jurisdiction of the United States
required consideration of many facts and seriously controverted
questions of law, including the alleged error involving the
jurisdiction of the court."
But the rule, often broadly stated, is not to be taken to mean
that the mere fact that the court which tried the petitioner had
assumed jurisdiction necessarily deprives another court of
authority to grant a writ of habeas corpus. As the Court said in
the case of Coy, supra,
pp. 127 U. S.
-758, the broad statement of the rule was certainly
not intended to go so far as to mean, for example,
"that, because a federal court tries a prisoner for an ordinary
common law offense, as burglary, assault and battery, or larceny,
with no averment or proof of any offense against the United States,
or any connection with a statute of the United States, and punishes
him by imprisonment, that he cannot be released by habeas corpus
because the court which tried him had assumed jurisdiction."
Despite the action of the trial court, the absence of
jurisdiction may appear on the face of the record (see In re
Snow, supra; Ex parte Hans Nielsen, Petitioner, supra,
131 U. S. 183
and the remedy of habeas corpus may be needed to release the
prisoner from a punishment imposed by a court manifestly without
jurisdiction to pass judgment.
It must never be forgotten that the writ of habeas corpus is the
precious safeguard of personal liberty, and there is no higher duty
than to maintain it unimpaired. Ex parte Lange, supra.
rule requiring resort to appellate procedure when the trial court
has determined its own jurisdiction of an offense is not a rule
Page 306 U. S. 27
power to issue a writ of habeas corpus when it appears that
nevertheless the trial court was without jurisdiction. The rule is
not one defining power, but one which relates to the appropriate
exercise of power. It has special application where there are
essential questions of fact determinable by the trial court.
Rodman v. Pothier, supra.
It is applicable also to the
determination in ordinary cases of disputed matters of law whether
they relate to the sufficiency of the indictment or to the validity
of the statute on which the charge is based. Id.; Glasgow v.
Moyer, supra; Henry v. Henkel, supra.
But it is equally true
that the rule is not so inflexible that it may not yield to
exceptional circumstances where the need for the remedy afforded by
the writ of habeas corpus is apparent. Among these exceptional
circumstances are those indicating a conflict between state and
federal authorities on a question of law involving concerns of
large importance affecting their respective jurisdictions. In
re Lincoln, 202 U. S. 178
202 U. S.
-183; Henry v. Henkel, supra,
We think that there are such exceptional circumstances in this
instance. There appear to be uncertainty and confusion with respect
to the question whether offenses within the Chickamauga and
Chattanooga National Park are triable in the state or federal
courts. It is represented that murder cases have been tried in the
state court as well as in the federal court. If the District Court
which tried petitioner gave consideration to the question, it made
no comment on the subject, as it rendered no opinion and apparently
made no record of its proceedings aside from the indictment and
judgment. The matter stood without any judicial explication and
without appeal. If, as contended, there being no disputed questions
of fact, a reading of the Georgia statute of consent and cession
would show that the United States had not acquired jurisdiction so
as to bring the offense charged in the indictment
Page 306 U. S. 28
within the class of offenses cognizable in the District Court,
we think that it was within the province of the court to which the
application for habeas corpus was made to examine the question and
to issue the writ in case the claim of want of jurisdiction in the
trial court was found to be a valid one.
Our examination of the Georgia statutes leads to
the conclusion that it is unnecessary to remand the case for the
determination of the District Court, but that it may be, and should
be, disposed of at once by our decision.
The lands which are embraced within the Chickamauga and
Chattanooga National Park, and lie within the exterior limits of
the State of Georgia, were acquired under the provisions of the Act
of Congress approved August 19, 1890, and supplementary
legislation. 26 Stat. 333. The Act provided for the establishment
of the Park "upon the ceding of jurisdiction by the legislature of
the State of Georgia." The lands were acquired in 1891 and
subsequent years. Some were acquired by purchase and some by
condemnation. Consent was given and jurisdiction was ceded to the
United States by an Act of the Legislature of Georgia approved
November 19, 1890. Georgia Laws, 1890-91, vol. 1, p. 199. The Act
specifically reserved to the Georgia criminal jurisdiction in the
ceded territory by the following proviso:
that this cession is upon the express
condition that the State of Georgia shall so far retain a
concurrent jurisdiction with the United States over said lands and
roads as that all civil and criminal process issued under the
authority of this State may be executed thereon in like manner as
if this Act had not been passed, and upon the further express
conditions, that the State shall retain its civil and criminal
jurisdiction over persons and citizens in said ceded territory as
over other persons and citizens in the State, and the property of
said citizens and residents
Page 306 U. S. 29
thereon, except land and such other property as the general
government may desire for its use, and that the property belonging
to persons residing within said ceded territory shall be liable to
State and county taxes, the same as if they resided elsewhere, and
that citizens of this State in said ceded territory shall retain
all rights of State suffrage and citizenship. . . ."
Later Acts of cession contained a similar reservation as to
criminal jurisdiction. [Footnote
If the matter rested with these statutes, there would be no room
for doubt that jurisdiction to punish for crimes committed on the
lands within the Park remained with the State. See James v.
Dravo Contracting Co., supra.
But, in 1927, another cession
act of a general character was passed by the state legislature,
purporting to cede exclusive jurisdiction to the United States over
"which has been or may hereafter be acquired for custom-houses,
post-offices arsenals, other public buildings whatever, or for any
other purposes of government."
Georgia Laws, 1927, p. 352. This Act reserved the right to serve
civil and criminal processes, but not criminal jurisdiction over
offenses within the ceded territory.
The argument is strongly pressed that, as this is a general act,
and there is no express repeal of, or specific reference to, the
earlier special acts relating to the lands within the Park, it
should not be regarded as yielding the jurisdiction which the
earlier acts reserved to the State. But we find that the
administrative construction is to the contrary. The administration
of the Park was placed with the War Department, [Footnote 4
] and it appears from its files
that, on July 14, 1930, upon a review of the pertinent legislation,
the Judge Advocate General gave an opinion that the Act of 1927
"vests exclusive jurisdiction in the
Page 306 U. S. 30
United States over that part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga
National Military Park located within the State of Georgia,"
and that violations of law occurring on the ceded lands are
enforceable only by the proper authorities of the United States. As
this administrative construction is a permissible one, we find it
persuasive and we think that the debated question of jurisdiction
should be settled by construing the Act of 1927 in the same
On this ground, the judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals,
affirming the order of the District Court denying the petition for
habeas corpus, is
Criminal Code, § 272, Third, 18 U.S.C. § 451.
26 Stat. 827, 36 Stat. 1157, Jud.Code, § 238.
Georgia Laws, 1893, p. 110; 1895, p. 77; 1901, p. 85; 1902, p.
Transferred to the National Parks Service, Department of the
Interior by Executive Order No. 6166, June 10, 1933.