Aicardi v. State,
86 U.S. 635 (1873)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Aicardi v. State, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 635 635 (1873)

Aicardi v. State

86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 635


1. Whether the legislature of a state has authority under the constitution of the state to pass a particular statute, what is the true interpretation of any statute passed by it for a purpose specified, and what acts will be justified under the statute, are matters which lie exclusively within the determination of the highest court of the state.

2. Statutes which allow gaming are to be construed strictly.

The Revised Code of Alabama, section 3621, in force before and in the year 1868, enacts that

"Any person who keeps or exhibits, or is interested or concerned in keeping or exhibiting, any table for gaming, of whatsoever name, kind, or description, not regularly licensed under the laws of the state, must, on conviction, be fined not less than $100,"


This section of the code being in force, the legislature, on the 31st of December, 1868, passed an act which enacted,

"SECTION 1. That Clifton Moses & Co. shall have the full right and authority to form themselves into a partnership association, for the purpose of receiving subscriptions, and to sell and dispose of certificates of subscription which shall entitle the holder thereof to such prizes as may be awarded to them, which distribution of award shall be fairly made in public, by casting of lots, or by lot, chance, or OTHERWISE, in such manner as to them may seem best to promote the interest of the School Fund of Mobile County, which said distribution of award and prizes shall be made at their office in the City of Mobile,"


"SECTION 2. That before commencing business under the provisions of this act, said partners shall pay to the board of school commissioners of Mobile County, for the use of the public schools of said county, the sum of $1,000; and annually thereafter a like amount, for the term of ten years, or so long as said partnership shall choose to do business under the provisions of this act, it being understood and agreed that said payment of $1,000 per annum is the consideration upon which this privilege is granted."

"SECTION 4. That this act shall remain in full force and effect

Page 86 U. S. 636

for ten years, upon the consideration herein contained, during which time said partnership company shall have the right to exercise the privilege and franchise herein given, any law to the contrary notwithstanding."

Under this act, J. C. Moses & Co. formed a partnership, which gave to one Aicardi its authority to keep or exhibit what was clearly a roulette table, or "a table for gaming."

On the 8th of March, 1871, the legislature repealed the above-quoted act.

Moses & Co., however, still paid the $1,000 a year and kept the table open to the public.

Aicardi being now indicted under the section of the code already quoted, set up an authority under the license from Moses & Co., and that the Act of the 8th of March, 1871, which he alleged gave Moses & Co. the right to keep such a table as he did, was void, as violating the obligation of contracts. The court in which he was indicted held that it was not thus void, and Aicardi was there convicted.

The supreme court of the state affirmed that judgment on the authority of Mayor, Aldermen, and Council of Mobile v. Clifton Moses, a case decided at the same term.

In that case, the said court held the Act of 31st of December, 1868, unconstitutional and void under the constitution of the state; moreover that it did not authorize a gaming table. Aicardi now brought the case here on error.

Page 86 U. S. 637

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