Moore v. Mississippi

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

88 U.S. 636

Moore  v.  Mississippi

ERROR to the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

The present constitution of Mississippi, ratified in 1869, ordains,

'That the legislature shall not authorize any lottery; nor shall any lottery heretofore authorized, be permitted to be drawn, or tickets therein to be sold.'

And to give effect to this provision, an act of the legislature of the State, passed in 1870, enacted,

'That every lottery and gift enterprise, of whatever name or description, regardless of the authority of law heretofore creating the same, be, and the same is hereby prohibited, and declared a nuisance and misdemeanor, against the public policy of the State, and that whoever is concerned . . . in any way or manner whatsoever therein . . . shall upon conviction be fined,' &c.

This statute being on the statute-book, Moore was indicted in one of the Circuit Courts of the State. The indictment charged him in five counts with selling lottery tickets, and in two with keeping a gaming table. He pleaded in bar to the whole indictment 'that in issuing the ticket or certificate mentioned and specified in the indictment, he was acting as the agent of the Mississippi Agricultural, Educational, and Manufacturing Aid Society, a body politic and corporate, which was duly incorporated by an act of the legislature of the State of Mississippi, approved February 16th, 1867, and that prior to the adoption of the present constitution of the State said Mississippi Agricultural, Educational, and Manufacturing Aid Society fully complied with all the provisions of said act of incorporation.'

The charge of issuing tickets or certificates was made, as already said, only in five out of the seven counts in the indictment. The State demurred to the plea, because, 1, it showed no valid bar to the prosecution, and 2, it amounted to the general issue and nothing more. The court sustained the demurrer.

Moore then pleaded not guilty and went to trial. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, generally, and the proper judgment was entered thereon. No bill of exceptions was taken at the trial, and no error was specifically stated on the record.

The case was taken to the Supreme Court of the State by writ of error, and the judgment of the court below was there affirmed. The record proper did not show what errors were assigned in the Supreme Court. Appended to the transcript of the record, or as a part of it, was the opinion of the Supreme Court of the State, preceding the judgment now brought here on error.

The present writ of error was prosecuted under section 709 of the Revised Statutes, [1] to obtain a re-examination of the case.

Mr. P. Phillips, for the plaintiff in error, setting out its language, and going much into its details, insisted that the act of incorporation under the authority of which Moore acted in the sale of the lottery ticket, was a contract between the corporators and the State, which was protected by that clause of the Constitution of the United States which prohibits a State from passing any law impairing the obligation of contracts; that as appeared by the opinion of the Supreme Court in the case appended to the transcript of the record (and to which, since the decision in Murdock v. Memphis, [2] reference might be made as constituting a part of it), it was plain that there had been drawn in question the validity of the statute of the State on the ground of its being repugnant to this clause of the Constitution of the United States, and that the decision of the highest court of the State had been in favor of such its validity. The jurisdiction of this court to re-examine and reverse, he argued was, therefore, clear under section 709 of the Revised Statutes (identical with the act of February 5th, 1867, itself a substitute for the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act), and the error of the Circuit Court in sustaining the demurrer to the plea was equally plain, on the case as existing and admitted.

Messrs. T. W. Bartley and G. F. Edmonds, contra.

The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  See the section, in the Appendix.

^2  20 Wallace, 633.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).