WALES V. WHITNEY, 114 U. S. 564 (1885)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Wales v. Whitney, 114 U.S. 564 (1885)

Wales v. Whitney

Argued April 21-22, 1885

Decided May 4, 1885

114 U.S. 564


The Act of March 3, 1885, Laws 2d Sess. 48th Cong, c. 353, page 437, restored to this Court appellate jurisdiction in habeas corpus cases over decisions of circuit court of the United States and decisions of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

Neither this Court nor the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia has appellate jurisdiction over a naval court-martial nor over offenses which it has power to try.

In order to make a case for habeas corpus, there must be actual confinement or the present means of enforcing it; mere moral restraint is not sufficient.

The appellant, a medical director in the Navy, was, under Rev.Stat. §§ 419, 420, 421, 426, 1471, appointed and commissioned Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in the Navy Department, with the title of Surgeon General, and served as such the full term filed by law. After he had vacated that office, a court-martial was ordered to try him under charges and specifications for conduct as Chief of the Bureau and Surgeon General,

Page 114 U. S. 565

and the Secretary of the Navy notified him thus: "You are placed under arrest and you will confine yourself to the limits of the City of Washington." An application for a writ of habeas corpus having been denied by the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, on appeal to this Court, it was held (1) that no restraint of liberty was shown to justify the use of the writ of habeas corpus; (2) that the Court would not decide in these proceedings, whether the Surgeon General of the Navy as Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in the Navy, is liable to be tried by court-martial for failure to perform his duties as Surgeon General.

This was an appeal from a judgment of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia refusing a writ of habeas corpus to release appellant, a Medical Inspector in the Navy, from restraint under an arrest, made by order of the Secretary of the Navy. The facts which make the case are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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