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HACKFELD & CO. V. UNITED STATES, 197 U. S. 442 (1905)

U.S. Supreme Court

Hackfeld & Co. v. United States, 197 U.S. 442 (1905)

H. Hackfeld & Co. v. United States

No. 164

Argued March 6, 1905

Decided April 3, 1905

197 U.S. 442


Section 10 of the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1084, which imposes upon one who has brought immigrants into the United States not permitted to land here the duty of returning them to the place from whence they came, with a penalty in case the duty is neglected, is a highly penal statute, and must be strictly construed; the word "neglect" cannot be construed so as to make the shipowner or master an insurer of the absolute return of the immigrant at all hazards, but it does require him to take every precaution to prevent the immigrant from escaping, and holds him to the care and diligence required by the circumstances.

Where, in an action under § 10 of the Act of March 3, 1891, the Attorney General and the other party have stipulated the facts as to the escape of immigrants and that the escape did not occur by reason of any negligence or want of proper care on the part of the master or officers of the vessel, the court cannot regard the stipulation as to lack of negligence a mere conclusion of law and find that there was negligence on the evidentiary facts as stipulated. It will presume that the Attorney General has done his duty and not stipulated away any of the rights of the prosecution, and the defendant is entitled to have the case tried upon the assumption that the ultimate fact of lack of negligence stipulated into the record was established as well as the specific facts recited.

Page 197 U. S. 443

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to review a judgment of that court affirming a judgment of the District Court for the District of Hawaii in which the petitioner, Hackfeld & Company, was adjudged guilty of a violation of § 10 of the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1084, and to pay a fine of $600 for neglecting to return to the port from whence they came, Yokohama, Japan, two certain Japanese immigrants unlawfully in the United States in violation of the act of Congress. The conviction was upon information filed and trial had to the court, a jury having been waived, and upon a stipulated finding of facts, agreed upon by the attorney for the United States and the petitioner. After statements as to the corporate character of the defendant company, and that it was the agent of the steamship Korea, a vessel plying between the State of California and the Empire of Japan, it is stipulated that the vessel brought into the port of San Francisco, in the United States, two certain Japanese immigrants from Yokohama, Japan, on October 28, 1902; that, on the following day, October 29, 1902, the said Japanese were denied admission into the United States by the board of special inquiry at the port of San Francisco, and the said board, being duly appointed and authorized in the premises, ordered the deportation of the said Japanese immigrants. That, on the 7th day of November, 1902, the said Japanese were received on board the vessel Korea for transportation to Japan. The stipulation then recites the following facts:

"That on the twelfth day of November, A.D. 1902, the said steamship Korea did arrive at the port of Honolulu, in the District and Territory of Hawaii; that, at the time of the arrival of said steamship Korea at said port of Honolulu, the said immigrants were still on board of said vessel; that said Japanese immigrants, together with certain deported Chinese, were placed in a room on board said vessel and locked up by the steerage steward of said vessel; at 12 o'clock midnight of said twelfth day of November, A.D. 1902, said Japanese were still

Page 197 U. S. 444

on board said vessel in said room; that between that time and 5 o'clock on the morning of the thirteenth day of November, A.D. 1902, said Japanese had effected their escape; that the only method of egress was through portholes, which were nearly 25 feet above the water; that this method of escape could not have been reasonably anticipated by the master or officers or agents of said steamship Korea; that said escape did not occur by vis major or inevitable accident, and that said escape did not occur by reason of any negligence or lack of proper care on the part of the officers of the vessel or said defendant."

"That the said defendant made search for said escaped immigrants, but up to the present time have not apprehended the said immigrants, and said immigrants have not been returned to Japan."

From the conviction in the lower court upon these stipulated facts, a writ of error was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In that court, without passing upon the question whether the statute justified conviction without proof of negligence, it was held that the judgment of conviction should be affirmed because the facts recited left room for the inference that the petitioner was found guilty of negligence in putting the Japanese in the room without taking the necessary precautions against escape through the portholes. The stipulation that the escape did not occur by reason of negligence or lack of proper care on the part of the officers of the vessel it was held did not bind the court, nor prevent it from placing upon the facts stipulated the construction which, in its judgment, they should properly receive. 125 F. 596.

Page 197 U. S. 446

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