Ableman v. Booth,
62 U.S. 506 (1858)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 21 How. 506 506 (1858)

Ableman v. Booth

62 U.S. (21 How.) 506


1. The process of a State court or judge has no authority beyond the limits of the sovereignty which confers the judicial power.

2. A habeas corpus, issued by a State judge or court, has no authority within the limits of the sovereignty assigned by the Constitution to the United States. The sovereignty of the United States and of a State are distinct and independent of each other within their respective spheres of action, although both exist and exercise their powers within the same territorial limits.

3. When a writ of habeas corpus is served on a marshal or other person having a prisoner in custody under the authority of the United States, it is his duty, by a proper return, to make known to the State judge or court the authority by which he holds him. But, at the same time, it is his duty not to obey the process of the State authority, but to obey and execute the process of the United States.

4. This court has appellate power in all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States, with such exceptions and regulations as Congress may make, whether the cases arise in a State Court or an inferior court of the United States. And, under the act of Congress of 1789, when the decision of the State court is against the right claimed under the Constitution or laws of the United States, a writ of error will lie to bring the judgment of the State court before this court for reexamination and revision.

5. The act of Congress of September 18, 1850, usually called the fugitive slave law, is constitutional in all its provisions.

6. The commissioner appointed by the District Court of the United States for the district of Wisconsin had authority to issue his warrant and commit the defendant in error for an offence against eh act of September 18, 1850.

7. The District Court of the United States had exclusive jurisdiction to try and punish the offence, and the validity of its proceedings and judgment cannot be reexamined and set aside by any other tribunal.

These two cases were brought up from the Supreme Court

Page 62 U. S. 507

of the State of Wisconsin by a writ of error issued under the 25th section of the judiciary act.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

Primary Holding

No decision of a state court is valid if it conflicts with a decision by a federal court.

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