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GOMPERS V. UNITED STATES, 233 U. S. 604 (1914)

U.S. Supreme Court

Gompers v. United States, 233 U.S. 604 (1914)

Gompers v. United States

No. 640, 574

Argued January 7, 8, 1914

Restored to docket for reargument April 6, 1914

Reargued April 20, 21, 1914

Decided May 11, 1914

233 U.S. 604


While this Court cannot review by appeal or writ of error a judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia punishing for contempt, it may grant a writ of certiorari to review the same.

Where two parties petition for writs of certiorari to review the same judgment, but the entire matter can be disposed of on one petition, the other will be denied.

Where the statute of limitations was pleaded, and, after a decision that it was inapplicable, one general exception was presented on his behalf in that regard, the rights of the defendant are sufficiently preserved.

Page 233 U. S. 605

The provision in Rev.Stat. § 1044 that no person shall be prosecuted for an offense not capital unless the indictment is found or information instituted within three years after commission of the offense applies to acts of contempt not committed in the presence of the court.

Provisions of the Constitution of the United States are not mathematical formulas having their essence in their form, but are organic living institutions transplanted from English soil. Their significance is not to be gathered simply from the words and a dictionary, but by considering their origin and the line of their growth.

Contempts are none the less offenses because trial by jury does not extend to them as a matter of constitutional right.

The substantive portion of § 1044 Rev.Stat. is that no person shall be tried for any offense not capital except within the specified time, and the reference to form of procedure by indictment or information does not take contempts out of the statute because the procedure is by other methods than indictment or information.

Quaere whether an indictment will lie for a contempt of a court of the United States.

In dealing with the punishment of crime, some rule as to limitation should be laid down, if not by Congress, by this Court.

As the power to punish for contempt has some limit, this Court regards that limit to have been established as three years by the policy of the law, if not by statute, by analogy. Adams v. Wood, 2 Cranch 336.

40 App.D.C. 293 reversed.

The facts, which involve the construction of § 1044 Rev.Stat. and its application to past acts of contempt, are stated in the opinion.

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