EX PARTE REED, 100 U. S. 13 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ex Parte Reed, 100 U.S. 13 (1879)

Ex Parte Reed

100 U.S. 13


1. The regularly appointed clerk of a paymaster in the navy is a "person in the naval service of the United States" within the meaning of art. 14, sec. 1624, of the Revised Statutes, and, for a violation of its provisions, is subject to be tried, convicted, and sentenced by a naval general court-martial.

2. The "regulations for the administration of law and justice" in that service, established by the Secretary of the Navy with the approval of the President, have the force of law.

3. Where, pursuant to such regulations, a general court-martial is duly ordered, the officer clothed with the revising authority may, before it is dissolved, direct it to reconsider its proceedings and sentence, and if it, upon being reconvened, renders a sentence which he approves, such sentence cannot be collaterally impeached for mere errors or irregularities if any such were committed by the court while acting within the sphere of its authority.

4. A., the clerk of a paymaster in the navy, was, by a court-martial, found guilty of certain charges and specifications of malfeasance in the discharge of his official duties. Sentence was passed upon him, and transmitted, with the record, to the revising officer, who returned it with a letter stating that the finding was in accordance with the evidence, but that he differed with the court as to the adequacy of the sentence. The court proceeded to revise it, and, after revoking it, substituted another, which he approved, inflicting upon A. a severer punishment. A., who was imprisoned pursuant thereto, alleging that it was illegal and void and that he was thereby unlawfully deprived of his liberty, prayed for a writ of habeas corpus. Held that the court-martial had jurisdiction of the person and of the subject matter and was competent to pass the sentence whereof A. complained.

MR. GEORGE S. BOUTWELL presented the following petition of Alvin R. Reed for a writ of habeas corpus:

"To the Supreme Court of the United States:"

"The petition of Alvin R. Reed, of Medford, in the County of Middlesex and State of Massachusetts, respectfully shows:"

"First, that on or about the twenty-sixth day of June, A.D. 1878, your petitioner was ordered to appear before a naval general court-martial convened by Rear-Admiral Ed. T. Nichols, on board the U.S. ship Essex, then stationed in the waters of Rio Janeiro, South America, to answer to certain charges and specifications of malfeasance in the discharge of his official duties as clerk to George L. Davis, then a paymaster in the Navy of the United States."

"Secondly that in obedience to said order, your petitioner appeared before said court-martial, and on the fifth day of July,

Page 100 U. S. 14

A.D. 1878, pleaded not guilty to the several charges and specifications then made and read to him; and that thereupon, from day to day, the trial proceeded until the sixteenth day of July, A.D. 1878, when the said court-martial found him guilty of certain of the charges and specifications."

"Thirdly that on the said sixteenth day of July, A.D. 1878, the court passed sentence upon your petitioner, made a record thereof in their proceedings, and transmitted the sentence to Rear-Admiral Nichols after the members of the court had affixed their signatures thereto."

"Fourthly that on the nineteenth day of July, A.D. 1878, Rear-Admiral Nichols returned the said sentence to the president of the court-martial with a communication in writing in which the admiral says that the finding is in accordance with the evidence, but regrets to be compelled to differ with the court as to the adequacy of the sentence."

"Fifthly that on the twentieth day of July, A.D. 1878, the court-martial proceeded to revise the sentence so returned, and adopted an order that the following sentence be placed on the record in substitution of the former sentence, which is hereby revoked:"

"That the said Alvin R. Reed, paymaster's clerk, U.S. Navy, be imprisoned in such place as the honorable Secretary of the Navy may designate for the term of two years; to lose all pay which may become due him during such confinement, excepting the sum of $10 per month, this loss amounting to $1,960; to be fined in the sum of $500, which fine must be paid before or at the end of the term of confinement. Should such fine not be paid at end of term of confinement, to be detained in confinement without pay until such fine be paid, and at the expiration of term of confinement to be dishonorably dismissed from the naval service of the United States."

"W. S. SCHLEY, Commander U.S.N., President of Court"

"H. T. STANCLIFF, Past Assistant Paymaster and member"

"CHAS. H. BLACK, Lieutenant and member"

"E. S. HOUSTON, Lieutenant and member"

"ASA WALKER, Lieutenant and member"

"W. P. DAY, Lieutenant and member"

"ROBERT L. MEAD, Captain U.S.M.C., Judge Advocate"

"Sixthly that the second sentence, so imposed, was more severe upon your petitioner than the sentence passed upon him on

Page 100 U. S. 15

the sixteenth day of July, A.D. 1878, and revoked by the court-martial as aforesaid."

"Seventhly, And your petitioner further represents that in his capacity as paymaster's clerk, as aforesaid, he was not amenable to trial by court-martial, nor subject to the jurisdiction of said court."

"Eighthly, That under said second sentence your petitioner has been for a long time, and now is confined on the U.S. ship Wabash, at the navy yard, Boston, Mass., and under the custody of Capt. S. L. Breese, commander of said ship."

"Ninthly, That on or about the twelfth day of April, A.D. 1879, your petitioner presented his petition to the Hon. John Lowell, Circuit Judge of the United States in the First Circuit, praying for a writ of habeas corpus; that a hearing thereupon was had before the Hon. Thomas L. Nelson, judge of the district court, sitting in the said circuit court, and such proceedings were thereon had that on the twelfth day of June, A.D. 1879, the said circuit court, to which said writ was returnable, remanded your petitioner and discharged said writ."

"And your petitioner now is, and ever since the said twelfth day of June, A.D. 1879, has been, a prisoner confined on said ship, at the navy yard, at said Boston, in the custody of said S. L. Breese, under the said illegal sentence pronounced on him on the said twentieth day of July, A.D. 1878, and restrained of his liberty in violation of the Constitution of the United States and of the laws of the country."

"Wherefore your petitioner prays that a writ of habeas corpus issue directed to the said S. L. Breese, commander of the said ship Wabash, commanding him to produce your petitioner before this honorable court, at the City of Washington, at such time as the court shall direct, and that he then and there show the cause of your petitioner's detention, to the end that your petitioner may be discharged from custody."

"And your petitioner also prays that a writ of certiorari may issue to John G. Stetson, clerk of the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts, commanding him to certify to your honorable court the petition of your petitioner before referred to, the return thereto, and all the records of said court respecting the same, and the adjudication thereon, to the end that the errors therein may be corrected by this honorable court."

"And your petitioner will ever pray."


"Dated BOSTON, Sept. 3, 1879 "

Page 100 U. S. 16

The petition was duly verified, and the facts therein stated were set forth with more fullness and particularity in an agreed statement filed therewith.

Page 100 U. S. 19

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