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HARKRADER V. WADLEY, 172 U. S. 148 (1898)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Harkrader v. Wadley, 172 U.S. 148 (1898)

Harkrader v. Wadley

No. 41

Argued October 17, 1898

Decided December 5, 1898

172 U.S. 148

Syllabus

The facts in the record show that there is no merit in the several objections to the jurisdiction of this Court taken by the appellee in this case.

Two propositions have been so firmly established by frequent decisions of this Court as to require only to be stated: (1) when a state court has entered upon the trial of a criminal case, under a statute not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States or to any law or treaty thereof, and where the state court has jurisdiction of the offence and of the accused, no mere error in the conduct of the trial can be made the basis of jurisdiction in a court of the United States to review the proceedings upon a writ of habeas corpus; (2) when a state court and a court of the United States may each take jurisdiction of a matter, the tribunal where jurisdiction first attaches holds it, to the exclusion of the other until its duty is fully performed and the jurisdiction involved is exhausted, and this rule applies alike in both civil and criminal cases.

A court of equity, although having jurisdiction over person and property in a case pending before it, is not thereby vested with jurisdiction over crimes committed in dealing with such property by a party before the civil suit was brought, and cannot restrain by injunction proceedings regularly brought in a criminal court having jurisdiction of the crime and of the accused.

A circuit court of the United States, sitting in equity in the administration of civil remedies, has no jurisdiction to stay by injunction proceedings pending in a state court in the name of a state to enforce the criminal laws of such state.

In the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Virginia, one H. G. Wadley filed a petition, signed chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 172 U. S. 149

and sworn to August 10, 1896, praying for the allowance of a writ of habeas corpus. The petition was as follows:

"To the Honorable Circuit Court of the United States in and for the Western District of Virginia at Abingdon, Virginia, Fourth Circuit:"

"Your petitioner, H. G. Wadley, respectfully represents and shows to this honorable court that he is a citizen of the United States of America and a citizen of the State of North Carolina, and a resident of the City of Wilmington in that state; that he is unjustly and unlawfully detained and imprisoned in the county jail of Wythe County, Virginia, at Wytheville, Virginia, in the custody of I. R. Harkrader, sheriff of said county, and as such the warden and keeper of said jail, by virtue of a warrant or order of commitment made by the County Court of Wythe County, Virginia at Wytheville, Virginia, on Monday, the 10th day of August, 1896, a copy of which order or warrant of commitment is hereto annexed, marked 'Exhibit A.'"

"Your petitioner would now show that on a petition filed by him before the Honorable Charles H. Simonton, United States Circuit Court Judge for said Fourth Circuit, embracing said Western District of Virginia, on the 5th of August, 1896, the said honorable judge, Simonton, entered an order on said petition, allowing it to be filed in the equity cause of H. G. Wadley v. Blount & Boynton et al., pending in said court, and on said petition, duly verified and sustained by affidavits, the said honorable judge, Simonton, on said 5th day of August, 1896, in accordance to the prayer of said petition, granted an injunction against Robert Sayers, the Commonwealth's Attorney of Wythe County, Virginia, J. A. Walker and C. B. Thomas, special prosecutors, and the creditors embraced in said petition, together with their counsel, from all further proceedings in said County Court of Wythe upon an indictment obtained against the said H. G. Wadley in said county court on the 16th day of May, 1894, and especially from exacting or requiring any bail or any commitment to imprisonment of said H. G. Wadley on said indictment in said county court."

"A certified copy of the said petition, which was presented

Page 172 U. S. 150

to Judge Simonton on the 5th of August, 1896, is herewith filed, marked 'Exhibit B,' and a certified copy of the said order of Judge Simonton of the 5th of August, 1896, on said petition, is likewise herewith filed, marked 'Exhibit C.'"

"Your petitioner, H. G. Wadley, would further show that heretofore, to-wit, on the 31st of January, 1895, on an injunction theretofore awarded by him to your petitioner in his case of H. G. Wadley v. Blount & Boynton et al., in this court, by the Honorable Nathan Goff, he, by a decree of that date, fully sustained the contention of your petitioner by refusing to dissolve said injunction and continuing it in full force, and by said decree enjoined and prohibited all further prosecution of said indictment in the County Court of Wythe County, Virginia as shown by copy of the said decree and the opinion of the Honorable Nathan Goff, herewith filed, marked 'Exhibit D.'"

"Your petitioner had hoped that, after this final decree in the United States circuit court by the Honorable Nathan Goff on said injunction, prohibiting all further prosecution of said indictment, that the order of that honorable court would have been obeyed; but that was a vain conjecture, as the said Robert Sayers, Commonwealth's Attorney of Wythe County, Virginia and said special prosecutors, J. A. Walker and C. B. Thomas, persisted and continued, from term to term or from time to time, in calling up said indictment in said county court, and asking for a continuance of the said indictment and for the commitment of the said H. G. Wadley to the county jail of Wythe County, and he was bailed with sureties for his appearance before the said county court to appear on Monday, the 10th of August, 1896, being the first day of the August term of the said county court. Your petitioner would now show that, notwithstanding the fact that the honorable judge, Simonton, as aforesaid, did on the 5th of August, 1896, enter said order especially forbidding any further order in said case in said court except a mere order of continuance, and although copies of the said order were duly executed on said commonwealth attorney, Robert Sayers, and on said special prosecutors, J. A. Walker and C. B. Thomas, and all of the creditors named in said petition, and upon their counsel

Page 172 U. S. 151

of record, by the marshal for the Western District of Virginia; which order was duly executed on Saturday, the 8th of August, 1896."

"Your petitioner, H. G. Wadley, would now show that in flagrant and contemptuous violation of both of the orders named, that of the Honorable Nathan Goff, of the 31st of January, 1895, prohibiting all further prosecution of said indictment, and in violation likewise of the said order of the Honorable Charles H. Simonton, of the 5th of August, 1896, upon the calling of the said indictment this day in said County Court of Wythe County, Virginia the said commonwealth's attorney and one of the special prosecutors asked for a continuance, and stated that they had nothing to do with the question of bail or with the question of the commitment of petitioner, but that that was the duty of the court, and thus indirectly accomplished what the order of Judge Simonton in express words prohibited; for the said commonwealth's attorney and special prosecutors, instead of asking a co