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United States v. Smith (197 U.S. 386)

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

197 U.S. 386

United States  v.  Smith

 Argued: March 15, 1905. --- Decided: April 3, 1905

On May 26, 1899, John Smith was serving under enlistment as a fireman of the first class on board the United States naval vessel Yorktown, then at anchor in Iloilo harbor, Philippine Islands. On the date named Smith was reported to the commanding officer of the Yorktown as having refused to do duty, and consequently such officer ordered him 'put under sentries as a prisoner in single irons for safekeeping to await trial by a general court-martial.' Subsequently, on June 30, 1899, Rear Admiral Watson, the commander-in-chief of the United States naval force on the Asiatic station, convened a general court-martial, to meet on July, 3, 1899, for the purpose of trying accused persons who might be legally brought before the court, and on the same day a charge was preferred against Smith, by the rear admiral, accompanied with a specification, for refusing to obey a lawful order of his superior officer. Smith, who, as already stated, had been placed under arrest on May 26, 1899, was served on July 1, 1899, with a copy of the charge and specification which had been preferred against him, and an extra watch was put over him as well as over other prisoners who were being held for trial. On July 5, 1899, Smith was sent under guard before the court-martial. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced 'to be confined in such place as the Secretary of the Navy may direct for a period of one year, to perform extra police duties during such confinement, to lose all pay that may become due him during such confinement, except the sum of three dollars ($3) per month for necessary prison expenses, and a further sum of $20 to be paid him at the expiration of his term of confinement, when he shall be dishonorably discharged from the United States Navy.'

The term of imprisonment prescribed in the sentence was somewhat mitigated by the Secretary of the Navy. Thereafter, on being released, Smith sued in the court of claims to recover the pay which would have been earned by him had he been entitled to receive the same during the period covered by the sentence. The right to recover was based on the averment that a copy of the charge had not been served on Smith when he was originally put under arrest on May 26, 1899, it being claimed that for this reason the judgment of the court-martial was void. After finding the facts as above recited, the court of claims concluded, as matter of law, that the claimant was entitled to recover, and from the judgment entered upon such finding the government appealed.

Messrs. Edwin P. Hanna, Assistant Attorney General Pradt, and Felix Brannigan for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 387-389 intentionally omitted]

Messrs. John Spalding Flannery and Frederio D. McKenney for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 389-391 intentionally omitted]

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


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).