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FUNK V. UNITED STATES, 290 U. S. 371 (1933)

U.S. Supreme Court

Funk v. United States, 290 U.S. 371 (1933)

Funk v. United States

No. 394

Argued November 13, 14, 1933

Decided December 11, 1933

290 U.S. 371


1. In a federal court, the wife of the defendant on trial for a criminal offense is a competent witness in his behalf. Hendrix v. United

Page 290 U. S. 372

States, 219 U. S. 79, and Jin Fuey Moy v. United States, 254 U. S. 189, overruled on this point. Pp. 290 U. S. 373, 290 U. S. 386.

2. In the absence of a federal statute governing the subject, the competency of witnesses in criminal trials in federal courts is determined by the common law. P. 290 U. S. 379.

3. In the taking of testimony in criminal cases, the federal courts are not bound by the rules of the common law as they existed at a specified time in the respective states; they are to apply those rules as they have been modified by changed conditions. P. 290 U. S. 379.

4. The reasons anciently assigned for disqualifying a wife as a witness in behalf of her husband in criminal cases can no longer be accepted in the federal courts in view of modern thought and legislation touching the subject. P. 290 U. S. 380.

5. The public policy of one generation may not, under changed conditions, be the public policy of another. P. 290 U. S. 381.

6. The federal courts have no power to amend or repeal a rule of the common law; but they have the power, and it is their duty, in the absence of any congressional legislation on the subject, to disregard an old rule which is contrary to modern experience and thought and is opposed in principle to the general current of legislation and judicial opinion, and to declare and apply what is the present rule in the light of the new conditions. Pp. 290 U. S. 381-383.

7. The common law is not immutable, but flexible, and by its own principles adapts itself to varying conditions. P. 290 U. S. 383.

66 F.2d 70 reversed.

Certiorari to review the affirmance of a conviction upon an indictment for conspiracy to violate the National Prohibition Law.

Page 290 U. S. 373

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