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Newman v. United States


Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

238 U.S. 537

Newman  v.  United States

 Argued: April 13, 1815. --- Decided: June 21, 1915

[Syllabus from pages 537-539 intentionally omitted]

The President, on June 23, 1913, nominated Oliver P. Newman as civil commissioner of the District of Columbia. The nomination was referred to a standing committee of the Senate. Certain persons filed objections to the confirmation on the ground that 'Newman had not been an actual resident of the District for three years immediately prior to his nomination,' and therefore was not qualified to hold the office under the provision of the act of 1878 [1] (20 Stat. at L. 103, § 2, chap. 180).

At the hearing before the committee there was testimony that Newman, who was a newspaper correspondent, came to Washington in March, 1910, with the intention of becoming a resident of the District. He rented an apartment in which he resided until the opening of the Presidential Campaign, in the summer of 1912. He was then assigned to newspaper work which took him out of the city. He accepted the employment upon the understanding that it was a temporary arrangement and that he was to return to Washington as soon as the campaign was over. In the discharge of his duties as correspondent he was absent in Chicago and other places until the inauguration. He then returned to Washington and was there living when on June 23, 1913, he was appointed one of the civil commissioners of the District. The committee made a favorable report and he was then confirmed by the Senate.

Thereafter William J. Frizzell called the attention of the Attorney General and the district attorney to facts which, he insisted, 'proved that Newman had not been an actual resident of the District for three years next preceding his nomination.' On the basis of such facts he requested those officers to institute quo warranto proceedings for the purpose of ousting Newman from the office. Both officers declined the request, and thereupon Frizzell, alleging himself to be a citizen and a taxpayer of the District, applied to the supreme court of the District for permission to use the name of the government in quo warranto proceedings. The court granted the request, and thereupon this case of the 'United States on the relation of William J. Frizzell v. Oliver P. Newman' was instituted.

The respondent demurred on many grounds; among others, that Frizzell was not an interested person, and that the court could not go behind the finding of the President and of the Senate that Newman was qualified. The demurrer was overruled and the case submitted to the jury to decide the question of fact as to Newman's residence. Testimony was taken explanatory of his absence from Washington on newspaper work. The court, among other things, charged the jury that there was a difference between 'legal residence' and 'actual residence.' Under the charge, the jury found against Newman. The judgment ousting him from the office was affirmed by the Court of appeals of the District-one judge dissenting.

The case is here on a writ of error which raises several important questions which, however, cannot be decided if, under the laws of the District of Columbia, Frizzell, as a private citizen, was not authorized to institute this proceeding to test the title to a public office to which he himself made no claim.

Messrs. Jackson H. Ralston, John W. Davis, William E. Richardson, George W. Hott, and Conrad H. Syme for plaintiff in error and petitioner.

Messrs. Joseph W. Bailey, Arthur A. Birney, and William J. Neale for defendant in error and respondent.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 541-542 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Justice Lamar, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

NotesEdit

^1  'The two persons appointed from civil life shall, at the time of their appointment, be citizens of the United States, and shall have been actual residents of the District of Columbia for three years next before their appointment, and have, during that period, claimed residence nowhere else, . . .'

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).