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EX PARTE LANGE, 85 U. S. 163 (1873)

U.S. Supreme Court

Ex parte Lange, 85 U.S. 18 Wall. 163 163 (1873)

Ex parte Lange

85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 163


1. The doctrine of this Court affirmed, and the cases in support of it cited, that, where a prisoner shows that he is held under a judgment of a Federal court, made without authority of law, the Supreme Court will, by writs of habeas corpus and certiorari, look into the record so far as to ascertain that fact, and, if it is found to be so, will discharge the prisoner.

2. The general principle asserted as applicable to both civil and criminal cases that the judgments, orders, and decrees of the courts of this country are under their control during the term at which they are made, so that they may be set aside or modified as law and justice may require.

3. But it is also declared that this power cannot be so used as to violate the guarantees of personal rights found in the common law and in the Constitutions of the States and of the Union.

4. If there is anything settled in the jurisprudence of England and America, it is that no man shall be twice punished by judicial judgments for the same offence.

5. The provisions of the common law and of the Federal Constitution that no man shall be twice placed in jeopardy of life or limb are mainly designed to prevent a second punishment for the same crime or misdemeanor.

6. Hence, when a court has imposed fine and imprisonment, where the statute only conferred to punish by fine or imprisonment, and the fine has been paid, it cannot, even during the same term, modify the judgment by imposing imprisonment instead of the former sentence.

7. The judgment of the court having been executed so as to be a full satisfaction of one of the alternative penalties of the law, the power of the court as to that offence is at an end.

8. A second judgment on the same verdict is, under such circumstances, void for want of power, and it affords no authority to hold the party a prisoner, and he must be discharged.

Edward Lange filed a petition to this Court at a former day, praying for a writ of habeas corpus to the marshal for the Southern District of New York, on the allegation that he was unlawfully imprisoned under an order of the Circuit Court of the United States for that district. On consideration of the petition, the court was of opinion that the facts which it alleged very fairly raised the question whether the Circuit Court, in the sentence which it had pronounced, and

Page 85 U. S. 164

under which the prisoner was held, had not exceeded its powers. It therefore directed the writ to issue, accompanied also by a writ of certiorari, to bring before this Court the proceedings in the Circuit Court under which the petitioner was restrained of his liberty.

From the record of the case in the Circuit Court, and the return of the marshal in whose custody the prisoner was found, the following facts appeared, and were stated, by the learned justice who delivered the opinion of the court, as the case:

"The petitioner had been indicted under an act of Congress, passed 8th June, 1872, [Footnote 1] for stealing, purloining, embezzling, and appropriating to his own use certain mailbags belonging to the Post Office Department. Upon the trial, on the 22d day of October, 1873, the jury found him guilty of appropriating to his own use mailbags, the value of which was less than twenty-five dollars; the punishment for which offence, as provided in said statute, is imprisonment for not more than one year or a fine of not less than ten dollars nor more than two hundred dollars. On the 3d day of November, 1873, the judge presiding sentenced the petitioner under said conviction to one year's imprisonment, and to pay two hundred dollars fine. The petitioner was, on said day, committed to jail in execution of the sentence, and on the following day the fine was paid to the clerk of the court, who, in turn, and on the 7th day of November, 1873, paid the same into the Treasury of the United States."

"On the 8th day of the same month, the prisoner was brought before the court on a writ of habeas corpus, the same judge presiding, and an order was entered vacating the former judgment, and the prisoner was again sentenced to one year's imprisonment from that date, and the return of the marshal to the writ of habeas corpus showed that it was under this latter judgment that he held the prisoner. It was conceded that all this was during the same term at which his trial took place before the jury. A second writ of habeas

Page 85 U. S. 165

corpus, issued by the circuit judge, was returned into the Circuit Court, when the two district judges sat with him on the hearing, and the writ was discharged and the petitioner remanded to the custody of the marshal."

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