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HEIKE v. UNITED STATES.

decided: May 2, 1910.

HEIKE
v.
UNITED STATES.



ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.

Author: Day

[ 217 U.S. Page 426]

 MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff in error, Charles R. Heike, was indicted with others on January 10, 1910, for alleged violations of the customs laws of the United States in connection with the fraudulent impertation of sugar, and also for conspiracy under § 5440 of the Revised Statutes of the United States to defraud the United States of its revenues. Heike appeared and filed a special plea in bar claiming immunity from prosecution under the act of February 25, 1903, c. 755, 32 Stat. 904, as amended June 30, 1906, c. 3920, 34 Stat. 798. The plea set up in substance that Heike had been called upon to

[ 217 U.S. Page 427]

     testify before the grand jury in matters concerning the prosecution against him, and had thereby become immune from prosecution under the law. The Government filed a replication, taking issue upon the matters set up in the plea. The issues thus raised were brought to trial before a jury in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York, and at the conclusion of the testimony the Government and the defendant each moved for direction of a verdict, and the court thereupon instructed the jury to find the issues joined in favor of the Government. Upon application by Heike he was granted the privilege of pleading over, and he thereupon entered a plea of not guilty, and the case was set for trial on March 1, 1910.

No judgment having been entered in the case mandamus proceedings were brought in this court, and in pursuance of its order a judgment nunc pro tunc was entered as of February 14, 1910, as follows: "Judgment be and is hereby entered for the United States upon the verdict with leave to the defendant to plead over."

On February 25, 1910, a writ of error was allowed to the Circuit Court from this court by one of its justices. The Government then moved, February 28, 1910, to vacate the order allowing the writ. That motion was overruled, March 14, 1910, and the Government made the present motion to dismiss the writ of error, upon the ground that the judgment entered as of February 14, 1910, is not a final judgment within the meaning of the Court of Appeals Act.

The motion to dismiss brings to the attention of the court the important question of practice as to whether, after a judgment has been entered upon a verdict setting up the plea of immunity under the act of February 25, 1903, as amended June 30, 1906, finding the issues against the defendant, with leave given to plead over, and a plea of not guilty entered, on which no trial has been had, such judgment is, or is not, a final judgment reviewable by writ of error

[ 217 U.S. Page 428]

     from this court where a constitutional question is involved, under § 5 of the act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826.

The appellate jurisdiction in the Federal system of procedure is purely statutory. American Construction Co. v. Jacksonville, Tampa & Key West Ry. Co., 148 U.S. 372, 378. For many years it did not exist in criminal cases. It has been granted by statute in certain cases; and criminal cases in which are involved a deprivation of constitutional rights, may be brought to this court by writ of error under § 5 of the Court of Appeals Act. Burton v. United States, 196 U.S. 283.

In the case at bar it is the contention of the plaintiff in error that he was deprived of the constitutional right of trial by jury in the direction by the court that the jury find a verdict against him upon his plea in bar. The question then is, Is the judgment entered nunc pro tunc as of February 14, 1910, a reviewable one under the statute? That judgment in effect denied the validity of the plea in bar, and left the defendant to plead over, which he did, putting in issue the averments of the indictment.

The construction of § 5 of the Court of Appeals Act was before this court in the case of McLish v. Roff, 141 U.S. 661, 665, and it was there held that the allowance of appeals or writs of error under that section must be understood to have the meaning which those terms had always had under acts of Congress relating to the appellate jurisdiction of this court, and that taken in that sense appeals or writs of error could only be allowed in cases in which there had been a final judgment. Mr. Justice Lamar, who spoke for the court in that case, pointed out that under the Judiciary Act of 1789 no appeal would lie to this court except from final judgments or decrees, and further stated that this was only declaratory of the settled practice of England, where no writ of ...


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