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Law School Case Brief

United States ex rel. Champion v. Ames - 95 F. 453


It is the duty of a subordinate court, when an act of congress is of doubtful validity, to hold the law valid for the purposes of the case, leaving the question of the constitutionality to be dealt with by the ultimate tribunal.


Upon a certified copy of a complaint, the commissioner of the Northern District of Texas issued a warrent of arrest, and C.F. Champion was taken into custody.  The complaint charged Champion with conspiracy, with certain other parties named, to commit an offense against the United States, the overt act alleged being the transportation of certain lottery tickets in the Pan-American Lottery Company of Paraguay. After being taken into custody, the amended complaint abandoned the theory of conspiracy and charged that Champion transported tickets of a drawing in and advertisement of a lottery tickets from the state of Texas to the territory of New Mexico by the Wells-Fargo Express Company. Champion filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus  to the marshal of the Northern district of Illinois, whose body was in the marshal's custody such that the district court in Illinois might inquire into the cause of arrest and imprisonment.


Was the act of Congress, 28 Stat. 963, for purposes of determining Champion’s habeas corpus petition constitutional?




The court determined that the act in question, 28 Stat. 963, was constitutional for purposes of determining the inmate's habeas corpus petition. The court held that the complaint did not allege a crime against Champion and that he should be discharged from custody. The court held as follows: (1) the main issue for determination in construing the act was the meaning to be given the word "state" as used in the act; (2) the court was bound to use the definition of "state" as had been found by the United States Supreme Court in construing the term in the Constitution; (3) the term "state" did not include "territory" for purposes of the statute; and (4) therefore, the complaint against the inmate did not charge a crime against the inmate because it alleged that he had transferred the lottery tickets from a state to a territory.

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