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Cockburn said, the evidence is conflicting, and any doubt of the party's guilt exists, no court would assume to proceed summarily, but would leave the case to be determined by a jury. But where the case is clear, and the denial is evasive, there is no fixed rule of law to prevent the court from exercising its authority
The provisions of the Constitution, which declare that no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, and that the trial of all crimes, except in cases of im. peachment, shall be by jury, have no relation to the subject in hand. As held by the Supreme Court of Tennessee in Fields v. The State (and the same view is expressed in other cases), the constitutional privilege of trial by jury for crimes does not apply to prevent the courts from punishing its officers for contempt, or from removing them in proper cases. Removal from office for an indictable offence is no bar to an indictment. The proceeding is in its nature civil, and collateral to any criminal prosecution by indictment. The proceeding is not for the purpose of punishment, but for the purpose of preserving the courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practise in them. Undoubtedly, the power is one that ought always to be exercised with great caution ; and ought never to be exercised except in clear cases of misconduct, which affect the standing and character of the party as an attorney. But when such a case is shown to exist, the courts ought not to hesitate, from sympathy for the individual, to protect themselves from scandal and contempt, and the public from prejudice, by removing grossly improper persons from participation in the administration of the laws. The power to do this is a rightful one; and, when exercised in proper cases, is no violation of any constitutional provision.
It is contended, indeed, that a summary proceeding against an attorney to exclude him from the practice of his profession on account of acts for which he may be indicted and tried by a jury is in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which forbids the depriving of any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. But the action of the court in cases within its jurisdiction is due process of law. It
is a regular and lawful method of proceeding, practised from time immemorial. Conceding that an attorney's calling or profession is his property, within the true sense and meaning of the Constitution, it is certain that in many cases, at least, he may be excluded from the pursuit of it by the summary action of the court of which he is an attorney. The extent of the jurisdiction is a subject of fair judicial consideration. That it embraces many cases in which the offence is indictable is established by an overwhelming weight of authority. This being so, the question whether a particular class of cases of misconduct is within its scope, cannot involve any constitutional principle.
It is a mistaken idea that due process of law requires a plenary suit and a trial by jury, in all cases where property or personal rights are involved. The important right of personal liberty is generally determined by a single judge, on a writ of habeas corpus, using affidavits or depositions for proofs, where facts are to be established. Assessments for damages and benefits occasioned by public improvements are usually made by commissioners in a summary way. Conflieting claims of creditors, amounting to thousands of dollars, are often settled by the courts on affidavits or depositions alone. And the courts of chancery, bankruptcy, probate, and admiralty administer immense fields of jurisdiction without trial by jury. In all cases, that kind of procedure is due process of law which is suitable and proper to the nature of the case, and sanctioned by the established customs and usages of the courts.
“ Perhaps no definition,” says Judge Cooley, “is more often quoted than that given by Mr. Webster in the Dartmouth College case: By the law of the land is most clearly intended the
general law; a law which hears before it condemns; which proceeds upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial. The meaning is that every citizen shall hold his life, liberty, property, and immunities, under the protection of the general rules which govern society.'” Cooley's Const. Lim. 353.
The question, what constitutes due process of law within the meaning of the Constitution, was much considered by this court in Davidson v. New Orleans, 96 U. S. 97; and Mr.
Justice Miller, speaking for the court, said : “ It is not possible to hold that a party has, without due process of law, been deprived of his property, when, as regards the issues affecting it, he has, by the laws of the State, a fair trial in a court of justice, according to the modes of proceeding applicable to such a case,' And, referring to Murray's Lessee v. Hoboken Land and Improvement Co., 18 How. 272, he said: “An exhaustive judicial inquiry into the meaning of the words “due process of law,' as found in the Fifth Amendment, resulted in the unanimous decision of this court, that they do not necessarily imply a regular proceeding in a court of justice, or after the manner of such courts."
We have seen that, in the present case, due notice was given to the petitioner, and a trial and hearing was had before the court, in the manner in which proceedings against attorneys, when the question is wbether they should be struck off the roll, are always conducted.
We think that the court below did not exceed its powers in taking cognizance of the case in a summary way, and that no such irregularity occurred in the proceeding as to require this court to interpose by the writ of mandamus. The writ of mandamus is, therefore,
MR. JUSTICE FIELD dissenting.
I am unable to concur with my associates in their disposition of this case, and I will briefly state the grounds of my dissent.
I appreciate to the fullest extent the indignation of the district judge at the lawless proceedings of the mob in his district in forcibly taking a prisoner from jail and putting him to death. There is no language of reprobation too severe for such .conduct; for, however great the offence of the prisoner, the law prescribed its punisiment and appointed the officers by whom it was to be executed. The usurpation of their duties, and the infliction of another punishment, were themselves the greatest of crimes, for which the actors should be held amenable to the violated laws of the State.
I join, also, with the learned justice of this court who ex
presses the views of the majority, in his denunciation of all forms of lawless violence; and I agree with him that the enormity of the offence is increased, when the violence is aided and encouraged by an attorney, bound by his oath of office to uphold the administration of justice in the established tribunals of the country. Nor can the offence be palliated by the statement of counsel, that the fury of the mob had been excited by the attempt of the victim of its violence to outrage the person of a young female.
The question here is, not what indignation may justly be expressed for the alleged offence of the victim, or for that of his assailants; nor what should be done with a person thus guilty of participating in and encouraging the lawless proceedings of the mob : but in what way is his guilt to be determined; when does the law declare him guilty, so that the court may upon such established guilt proceed to inflict punishment for the offence and remove him from the bar.
I do not think that the Circuit Court of the United States could declare the petitioner in this case guilty of a crime against the laws of Florida upon information communicated to its judge on the streets, and thereupon cite him to show cause why he should not be stricken from the roll of attorneys of the court and be disbarred from practising therein.
And though the declaration of the court, upon what was assumed to have been the conduct of the petitioner, contained in the recital of the order directing the citation, be treated, contrary to its language, merely as a charge against him, and not as a judgment upon his conduct, I cannot think that the court had authority to formulate a charge against him of criminal conduct not connected with his professional duties, upon the verbal statements of others, made to its judge outside of the court and without the sanction of an oath. And I cannot admit that upon a charge thus formulated the petitioner could be summarily tried. In no well-ordered system of jurisprudence, by which justice is administered, can a person be tried for a criminal offence by a court, the judge of which is himself the accuser.
The first proceeding disclosed by the record is the following order:
“ CIRCUIT COURT OF THE U. S., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA,
MARCH TERM, 1882. “Whereas it has come to the knowledge of this court that one J. B. Wall, an attorney of this court, did, on the sixth day of this present month, engage in and with an unlawful, tumultuous, and riotoiis gathering, be advising and encouraging thereto, to take from the jail of Hillsborough County, and hang by the neck until he was dead, one John, otherwise unknown, thereby showing such an utter disregard and contempt for the law and its provisions, which, as a sworn attorney, he was bound to respect and support, as shows him to be totally unfitted to occupy such position: It is hereby ordered that said J. B. Wall be cited to appear and show cause, by eleven o'clock Wednesday, the eighth instant, why his name should not be stricken from the roll of attorneys, and he be disbarred and prohibited from practising herein.
“JAMES W. LOCKE, “TAMPA, FLORIDA, March 7, 1882.
District Judge." How these matters came to the knowledge of the court is not here disclosed, but in the return of the judge to the alternative writ of mandamus from this court we are enlightened on this point. He states that on the 6th of March, 1882, on the adjournment of the court for dinner, in passing from the courthouse he saw a person brought to the jail by two officers ; that on his return to the court-house, a little over an hour afterwards, he saw the dead body of the prisoner hanging from a tree in front of the court-house door, whereby he became personally informed of the commission of a most serious offence against the laws. He also states that on the same afternoon
he was informed of the active participation in said crime of one J. B. Wall, an attorney of said court, by an eye-witness in whom the most implicit confidence could be placed, but who declined to make any charge or affidavit of such fact on account of a fear of said Wall's influence and the local feeling it would cause against him, the said witness; that not only from the direct statements of eye-witnesses, but from numerous other sources, reliable information of like import was received ; whereupon said J. B. Wall, the petitioner, was, on the said seventh day of March, during a session of the Circuit Court of the United States, in open court, charged in writing by the