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Confederation, Congress had power to establish rules for determining the legality of captures and for the division of prize, and even before the Articles were adopted, it had established in 1780 a court of final appeal in cases of capture. Its decisions are reported in 2 Dallas, 1. An account of it by Bancroft Davis is given in 131 U. S. Appendix. Under the Constitution admiralty and maritime jurisdiction is vested exclusively in the Federal Government, and Congress has paramount power to fix and determine the maritime law which shall prevail throughout the country, Butler v. Boston & Savannah Steamship Co. (1889), 130 U. S. 527; In re Garnett (1891), 141 U. S. 1; Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen (1917), 244 U. S. 205.
For discussions of admiralty and maritime law, see Marsden, The Law and Custom of the Sea; Holdsworth, A History of English Law; Mears, The History of the Admiralty Jurisdiction, reprinted in Select Essays in Anglo-American Legal History, II, 312; and the monumental opinion of Justice Story in De Lovio v. Boit (1815), 2 Gallison, 398. Judicial Power.-Of the various Federal courts, only the Supreme Court derives its existence or any of its jurisdiction directly from the Constitution. Within the limits fixed by the Constitution, the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the original and appellate jurisdiction of the inferior courts are fixed by Congress. The clause defining the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court does not itself confer jurisdiction. It merely determines to what part of the judicial power of the United States the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall extend. The Supreme Court has no jurisdiction either original or appellate which is not included in the general grant of judicial power. Louisiana v. Texas (1900), 176 U. S. 1; Duhne v. New Jersey (1920), 251 U. S. 311. Since the judicial power is vested in the courts by the Constitution, Congress may not impose upon them non-judicial functions, nor deprive them of their inherent judicial power, nor confer judicial power upon non-judicial bodies. Since the courts may be charged only with judicial functions, Congress may not vest them with general supervision of the action of administrative boards. The courts may review the action of such boards only in so far as it is necessary to determine whether the board has acted within its power and not whether it has acted wisely, Reagan v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. (1894), 154 U. S. 362; Interstate Commerce Commission v. Illinois Central Ry. (1910), 215 U. S. 452. But the courts may be required to aid the action of such boards by compelling the attendance of witnesses and the production of books and papers. Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson (1894), 154 U. S. 447, and Congress may provide for the transfer of the proceedings and records of quasi-judicial boards to judicial tribunals for examination and determination de novo, Stephens v. Cerokee Nation (1899), 174 U. S. 477. If the proceedings of an inferior Federal court in execution of the provisions of a treaty are not of a judicial character, they are not reviewable by the Supreme Court, United States v. Ferreira (1851), 13 Howard, 40. While Congress in the exercise of its exclusive authority over the District of Columbia may impose non-judicial functions upon the courts of the District, the action of the courts in such cases is not reviewable by the Supreme
Court, Keller v. Potomac Electric Power Co. (1923), 261 U. S. 428. The courts, as organs of the judicial power, possess inherently such authority as is necessary to enable them to discharge their functions. Hence, while the inferior Federal courts derive their jurisdiction from Congress, the Constitution makes them when established the organs through which the judicial power is to be exercised, and they must possess all those powers which are inherent in courts. In Ex parte Robinson (1874), 19 Wallace, 505, the Supreme Court said:
The power to punish for contempts is inherent in all courts; its existence is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings, and to the enforcement of the judgments, orders and writs of the courts, and consequently to the due administration of justice. The moment the courts of the United States were called into existence and invested with jurisdiction over any subject, they became possessed of this power.
In the case of In re Debs (1895), 158 U. S. 564, the Supreme Court said, "The power of a court to make an order carries with it the equal power to punish for a disobedience of that order, and the inquiry as to the question of disobedience, has been from time immemorial, the special function of the court." Since attorneys are officers of the courts, they have the inherent power to determine what qualifications shall be necessary for admission to practice and for what causes attorneys may be disbarred. In Ex parte Secombe (1856), 19 Howard, 9, 13, the Supreme Court said:
It has been well settled, by the rules and practice of common-law courts, that it rests exclusively with the court to determine who is qualified to become one of its officers, as an attorney and counsellor, and for what cause he ought to be removed. The power, however, is not an arbitrary and despotic one, to be exercised at the pleasure of the court, or from passion, prejudice, or personal hostility; but it is the duty of the court to exercise and regulate it by a sound and just judicial discretion, whereby the rights and independence of the bar may be as scrupulously guarded and maintained by the court, as the rights and dignity of the court itself. Except as specifically authorized by the Constitution neither Con. gress nor the President may exercise judicial functions. Hence Congress may not prescribe rules of decision to the judicial department in cases pending before it, United States v. Klein (1871), 13 Wallace, 128. While Congress may not direct the action of a court it may prevent undesired action in a particular case by depriving a court of jurisdiction over a case which has been appealed and argued but not yet decided, Ex parte McCardle (1869), 7 Wallace, 506. Since under the Federal Constitution the right to create crimes and establish punishments pertains to Congress, a court may not in a criminal case suspend sentence during good behavior, Ex parte United States (1916), 242 U. S. 27. In determining the jurisdiction of an inferior court, it is presumed "that a cause is without its jurisdiction till the contrary appears," Turner v. Bank of North America (1799), 4 Dallas, 8.
SECTION 2. JURISDICTION BASED ON THE NATURE OF THE
MARTIN, Heir at Law and Devisee of Fairfax, v. HUNTER'S
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES. 1816.
Error to the Court of Appeals of the State of Virginia.
This is a writ of error from the court of appeals of Virginia, founded upon the refusal of that court to obey the mandate of this court, requiring the judgment rendered in this very cause, at February term, 1813, to be carried into due execution. The following is the judgment of the court of appeals rendered on the mandate: "The court is unanimously of opinion, that the appellate power of the supreme court of the United States does not extend to this court, under a sound construction of the constitution of the United States; that so much of the 25th section of the act of congress to establish the judicial courts of the United States, as extends the appellate jurisdiction of the supreme court to this court, is not in pursuance of the constitution of the United States; that the writ of error, in this cause, was improvidently allowed, under the authority of that act; that the proceedings thereon in the supreme court were coram non judice, in relation to this court, and that obedience to its mandate be declined by the court."
Before proceeding to the principal questions, it may not be unfit to dispose of some preliminary considerations which have grown out of the arguments at the bar.
The constitution of the United States was ordained and established, not by the states in their sovereign capacities, but emphatically, as the preamble of the constitution declares, by "the People of the United States." There can be no doubt, that it was competent to the people to invest the general government with all the powers which they might deem proper and necessary; to extend or restrain these powers according to their own good pleasure, and to give them a paramount and supreme authority. As little doubt can there be, that the people had a right to prohibit to the states the exercise of any powers which were, in their judgment, incompatible with the objects of the general compact; to make the powers of the state governments, in given
cases, subordinate to those of the nation, or to reserve to them selves those sovereign authorities which they might not choose to delegate to either. The constitution was not, therefore, necessarily carved out of existing state sovereignties, nor a surrender of powers already existing in state institutions, for the powers of the states depend upon their own constitutions; and the people of every state had the right to modify and restrain them, according to their own views of policy or principle. On the other hand it is perfectly clear that the sovereign powers vested in the state governments, by their respective constitutions, remained unaltered and unimpaired, except so far as they were granted to the government of the United States. These deductions do not rest upon general reasoning, plain and obvious as they seem to be. They have been positively recognized by one of the articles in amendment of the constitution, which declares, that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
The government, then, of the United States, can claim no powers which are not granted to it by the constitution, and the powers actually granted must be such as are expressly given, or given by necessary implication. On the other hand, this instrument, like every other grant, is to have a reasonable construction, according to the import of its terms; and where a power is expressly given, in general terms, it is not to be restrained to particular cases, unless that construction grows out of the context, expressly, or by necessary implication. The words are to be taken in their natural and obvious sense, and not in a sense unreasonably restricted or enlarged.
The constitution unavoidably deals in general language. It did not suit the purposes of the people, in framing this great charter of our liberties, to provide for minute specifications of its powers, or to declare the means by which those powers should be carried into execution. It was foreseen, that this would be a perilous and difficult, if not an impracticable, task. The instrument was not intended to provide merely for the exigencies of a few years, but was to endure through a long lapse of ages, the events of which were locked up in the inscrutable purposes of Providence. It could not be foreseen, what new changes and modifications of power might be indispensable to effectuate the general objects of the charter; restrictions and specifications, which at the present, might seem salutary, might, in the end,
prove the overthrow of the system itself. Hence, its powers are expressed in general terms, leaving to the legislature, from time. to time, to adopt its own means to effectuate legitimate objects, and to mould and model the exercise of its powers, as its own wisdom, and the public interests, should require.
With these principles in view, principles in respect to which no difference of opinion ought to be indulged, let us now proceed to the interpretation of the constitution, so far as regards the great points in controversy.
The third article of the constitution is that which must principally attract our attention.
This leads us to the consideration of the great question, as to the nature and extent of the appellate jurisdiction of the United States. We have already seen, that appellate jurisdiction is given by the constitution to the supreme court in all cases where it has not original jurisdiction, subject, however, to such exceptions and regulations as congress may prescribe. It is, therefore, capable of embracing every case enumerated in the constitution, which is not exclusively to be decided by way of original jurisdiction. But the exercise of appellate jurisdiction is far from being limited, by the terms of the constitution, to the supreme court. There can be no doubt, that congress may create a succession of inferior tribunals, in each of which it may vest appellate as well as original jurisdiction. The judicial power is delegated by the constitution, in the most general terms, and may, therefore, be exercised by congress, under every variety of form of appellate or original jurisdiction. And as there is nothing in the constitution which restrains or limits this power, it must, therefore, in all other cases, subsist in the utmost latitude of which, in its own nature, it is susceptible.
As, then, by the terms of the constitution, the appellate jurisdiction is not limited as to the supreme court, and as to this court, it may be exercised in all other cases than those of which it has original cognizance, what is there to restrain its exercise over state tribunals, in the enumerated cases? The appellate power is not limited by the terms of the third article to any particular courts. The words are, the judicial power (which includes appellate power) shall extend to all cases," &c., and "in all other cases before mentioned the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction." It is the case, then, and not the court, that gives the jurisdiction. If the judicial power extends to the case, it will be in vain to search in the letter of the constitution