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UNITED STATES V. BIRDSALL, 233 U. S. 223 (1914)

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Birdsall, 233 U.S. 223 (1914)

United States v. Birdsall

No. 727, 728, 729

Submitted and argued January 8, 9, 1914

Restored to docket for reargument January 19, 1914

Reargued February 25, 1914

Decided April 6, 1914

233 U.S. 223


Where the district court holds that the acts charged do not fall within the condemnation of the statute on which the indictment is based, it necessarily construes that statute, and this Court has jurisdiction under the Criminal Appeals Act of 1907.

Sections 39 and 117, Criminal Code, 35 Stat. 1109, defining and punishing the giving and accepting of bribes, cover every action within the range of official duty.

It is not necessary in order to constitute an act of an officer of the United States official action that it be prescribed by statute; it is sufficient if it is governed by a lawful requirement, whether written or established by custom, of the department under whose authority the officer is acting.

The office of Commissioner of Indian Affairs was established to create an administrative agency with adequate powers to execute the policy of the government towards the Indians, and one of the important duties of the Indian Office is the enforcement of liquor prohibition.

The action of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in advising the

Page 233 U. S. 224

President of the United States whether or not clemency should be granted to one convicted of violating liquor laws in the Indian country is official action, and it is within the competency of the office to establish regulations requiring from all persons connected with the office true and disinterested reports to the Commissioner on which to base such advice.

The powers of the Indian Office to aid in suppressing the liquor traffic in Indian country extend to every matter to which such aid is appropriate, and the giving of recommendations to a federal judge or attorney as to sentences of those convicted of violating the liquor laws is an official duty within the meaning of §§ 39 and 117, Criminal Code, and the giving of gifts to, and acceptance thereof by, officers in that department to influence their reports and recommendations constitute bribery under, and are punishable by, such sections.

206 F. 818 reversed.

The facts, which involve the validity of indictments under §§ 39 and 117, Criminal Code for giving and accepting bribes, are stated in the opinion.

Page 233 U. S. 227

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