In re Neagle (Cunningham v. Neagle), 135 U.S. 1; 10 S. Ct. 658; 34 L. Ed. 55 (1890)

In re Neagle (Cunningham v. Neagle), 135 U.S. 1; 10 S. Ct. 658; 34 L. Ed. 55 (1890)

Facts—David Neagle was a deputy U.S. marshal traveling with Mr. Justice Field, who was holding Circuit Court. Terry, a former California supreme court justice with whom Field had previously served and against whom Field had later imposed a sentence, had threatened Field. Neagle was assigned by the attorney general to accompany and protect Field. Terry approached Field in what was considered to be a threatening fashion, whereupon Neagle shot and killed him. Neagle was arrested by local authorities for murder but was released on a writ of habeas corpus by the federal Circuit Court on the grounds that he was held for “an act done or omitted in pursuance of a law of the United States,” within the meaning of the federal statute providing for the issuance of the writ in such cases. However, the law under which Neagle acted was an executive order of the president.

Question—Did the president have the right to assign someone to guard a Supreme Court justice absent a specific law making this authorization?


ReasonsJ. Miller (6–2). “It would be a great reproach to the system of government of the United States, declared to be within its sphere sovereign and supreme, if there is to be found within the domain of its powers no means of protecting the judges, in the conscientious and faithful discharge of their duties, from the malice and hatred of those upon whom their judgments may operate unfavorably. ” Just as a sheriff must keep the peace of the state and local laws of California, so Neagle, a deputy U.S. marshal, was bound to keep the peace in regard to the federal laws. The attack on Mr. Justice Field was the breaking of the peace of the United States and it was a duty of Neagle to keep that peace. “We cannot doubt the power of the president to take measures for the protection of a judge of one of the courts of the United States, who, while in the discharge of the duties of his office, is threatened with a personal attack which may probably result in his death. ”

Note—This case has been used to support the idea that the president has cer- tain inherent powers that he can exercise in domestic affairs.

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