Thursday, November 21, 2013

United States v. Hudson and Goodwin case brief

United States v. Hudson and Goodwin case brief summary
11 U.S. (7 Cranch) 32 (1812)

Defendant newspaper filed a general demurrer to an indictment for a libel on the President and Congress, charging them with secretly voting two million dollars as a present to Bonaparte for leave to make a treaty with Spain. Because the judges of the Circuit Court for the District of Connecticut were divided in opinion as to whether the United States Circuit Courts had common law jurisdiction in cases of libel, the question was certified.

The newspaper published an article that the government contended libeled the President of the United States and Congress. The case was certified upon argument of a general demurrer to the indictment because the circuit court judges had differing opinions as to whether the circuit courts had jurisdiction of the case.


  • In answering in the negative, the Court held that the legislative authority of the Union had to first make an act a crime, affix a punishment to it, and declare the court that would have jurisdiction of the offense. 
  • Certain implied powers necessarily resulted to the courts of justice from the nature of their institution, but jurisdiction of crimes against the state was not among those powers. 
  • To fine for contempt, imprison for contumacy, or enforce the observance of order were powers that could not be dispensed with in a court because they were necessary to the exercise of all others. 
  • The federal courts possessed powers not immediately derived from statute, but the Court was of the opinion that all exercise of criminal jurisdiction in common law cases was not within their implied powers.

The Court answered the question regarding whether a circuit court of the United States had a common law jurisdiction in the negative.

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