BOWEN V. JOHNSTON, 306 U. S. 19 (1939)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowen v. Johnston, 306 U.S. 19 (1939)

Bowen v. Johnston

No. 359

Argued January 11, 1939

Decided January 30, 1939

306 U.S. 19


1. The United States has constitutional power to acquire land within the exterior limits of a State for a national park. P. 306 U. S. 23.

2. As a general rule, review of a determination of the District Court affirming its jurisdiction involving imprisonment for crime is by appellate procedure and not by habeas corpus. P. 306 U. S. 23.

This rule is not one defining power to grant the writ, but one which relates to the appropriate exercise of power. P. 306 U. S. 26.

3. Habeas corpus may be appropriately granted where jurisdiction in the criminal case depended upon a question of law, there being no dispute of facts, and where the need for the inquiry is made apparent by exceptional circumstances. P. 306 U. S. 27. chanrobles.com-red

Page 306 U. S. 20

Such exceptional circumstances existed in this case, which involved a sentence by the District Court for murder committed in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park, in Georgia. There appeared to be uncertainty and confusion as to whether offenses within the Park were triable by the state or the federal courts. It was represented that murder cases had been tried in each. It did not appear of record that the District Court had considered the question of jurisdiction. There had been no appeal, and it was contended that a reading of the Georgia statute of consent and cession would show that the United States had not acquired jurisdiction so as to bring the offense charged in the indictment within the class of offenses cognizable in the District Court.

4. In habeas corpus by one imprisoned for a murder committed in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Park in Georgia, the sole question was whether the United States had exclusive jurisdiction over land in the Park, in virtue of having acquired it by consent of or cession from the Georgia legislature.


(1) The federal courts take judicial notice of the Georgia statutes. P. 306 U. S. 23.

(2) If these statutes did not give to the United States exclusive jurisdiction over the Park, the indictment did not charge a crime cognizable under the authority of the United States. Id.

(3) Although, in earlier Acts consenting to acquisitions and ceding jurisdiction of land for the Park, criminal jurisdiction was specifically reserved by the State, exclusive jurisdiction was ceded by the general Act of 1927, purporting to cede exclusive jurisdiction to the United States over any land

"which has been or may hereafter be acquired for custom-houses, post-offices, arsenals, other public buildings whatever, or for any other purposes of government,"

and which reserved the right to serve civil and criminal processes but not criminal jurisdiction over offenses within the ceded territory. P. 306 U. S. 28.

(4) This conclusion has support in administrative construction. P. 306 U. S. 29.

Referring to an opinion of the Judge Advocate General, July 14, 1930, when the Park was in charge of the War Department.

97 F.2d 860 affirmed.

Certiorari, 305 U.S. 579, to review affirmance below of an order of the District Court denying a petition for a writ of habeas corps. chanrobles.com-red

Page 306 U. S. 21