134 US 483 United States v. Jones

10 S.Ct. 615

134 U.S. 483

33 L.Ed. 1007


March 24, 1890.

Asst. Atty. Gen. Cotton and F. P. Dewees, for the United states.

[Argument of Counsel from page 484-485 intentionally omitted]

George A. King, for appellee.

Mr. Justice LAMAR, afterstating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court.


A brief reference to the powers and duties of a commissioner, as an examining and committing magistrate, will be sufficient to dispose of the only question presented by this appeal. Section 1014 of the Revised Statutes of the United States provides that, 'for any crime or offense against the United States, the offender may, by * * * any commissioner of the circuit court to take bail, * * * be arrested and imprisoned, or bailed, as the case may be, for trial before such court of the United States as by law has cognizance of the offense. Copies of the process shall be returned as speedily as may be into the clerk's office of such court, together with the recognizances of the witnesses for their appearance to testify in the case,' etc. By section 1015 it is further provided that 'bail shall be admitted' by such commissioner 'upon all arrests in criminal cases, where the offense is not punishable by death.' By section 1982 such commissioner are vested with the power to institute proceedings against persons violating any of the provisions of chapter 7 of the title 'Crimes.' Section 1983 provides for the increase of the number of commissioners, 'so as to afford a speedy and convenient means for the arrest and examination of persons charged with the crimes referred to in the preceding section.' By section 1984 these officers are vested with other important powers; and by section 1985 every marshal and deputy-marshal is required to obey and execute all warrants or other process that the commissioners may issue in the lawful performance of their duties. By other sections numerous duties of a purely clerical and ministerial character are attached to this office. The compensation of a commissioner is clearly prescribed and classified by section 847 of the Revised Statutes according to the character of the services performed. For acts purely clerical and minsterial, such as administering oaths, taking acknowledgments, taking and certifying depositions to file, or furnishing a copy of the same, specific fees are provided, and for issuing writs or warrants or other services he has the same compensation as is allowed to clerks for like service. For acts not merely clerical, but which are performed by the commissioner in his judicial capacity, his fees are regulated on a basis of per diem compensation. Among the provisions of this kind is the one upon which this controversy has arisen, viz.: 'For hearing and deciding on criminal charges, five dollars a day for the time necessarily employed.' It is admitted that from March 12, 1884, to June 20, 1888, the period covered by the claim in dispute, there came before the appellee, in his capacity as commissioner, on eleven different days, eleven separate cases, to be heard and decided against various persons, each charged with a crime against the laws of the United States; that in four of these cases he heard and decided motions upon bail, and the sufficiency thereof; and in the other seven motions for continuance were heard and decided by him.


There can be but one answer, in our opinion, to the question whether the commissioner should be allowed a fee of five dollars a day for his services on those eleven days. The decision, upon a motion for bail and the sufficiency thereof, is a judicial determination of the very matter which the statutes authorize and require him 'to hear and decide,' to-wit, whether a party arrested for a crime against the United States, when brought before him for examination, shall be discharged, or committed on bail for trial, and in default thereof imprisoned. With respect to motions for continuance, the granting or refusal of them is unquestionably a necessary incident to, and a part of, the hearing and determining of criminal charges; and the exercise of that power in such criminal proceedings is indispensable to the right of the accused to have a fair and full investigation of the offense charged against him, and to a sufficient time for the summoning of his witnesses, as well as for employing and consulting with counsel to aid him in his defense. It is contended by the assistant attorney general that the per diem fee in such case is not only intended for the service specified, but that the 'time actually employed is also an element to be considered.' A sufficient answer to this objection is furnished in the findings of the court below, that the account of the commissioner for the fees charged for the services in question was verified by oath, and presented to the United States court of which he was the commissioner, in open court, in the presence of the district attorney, approved by the court; and an order approving the same, as being in accordance with law, and just, was entered upon the records of the court. The approval of a commissioner's account by a circuit court of the United States, under the act of February 22, 1875, (18 St. 333,) is prima facie evidence of the correctness of the items of that account; and, in the absence of clear and unequivocal proof of mistake on the part of the court, it should be conclusive. We think the authorities cited by the attorney for the appellee in support of the claim in question are directly in point. The judgment of the court of claims is affirmed.