Norton v. U.S.

US Criminal Law

Norton
‘Clark Gable’ by Mary Bassett

While intention to defraud and deceive are crucial to a lawful conviction, when the evidence shows there was no plausible theory upon which to establish a victim the courts simply cannot pass judgment, as was shown in this case between the alleged lover of a well-known Hollywood film star and those bent on convicting her.

Sometime in 1937 the appellant was indicted before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on charges of mail fraud as per 18 U.S.C.A. § 338, which reads in relevant part that:

“Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises….places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service….shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

While the charge itself was reliant upon the fact that the appellant had organised and attempted to effectuate a letter-based scheme whereby she claimed to have given birth to a daughter in years following a romantic liaison with actor Clark Gable in England some fifteen years prior to the hearing, and so following her subsequent conviction, she appealed against the judgment on grounds that the allegations were in fact, false.

Heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court quickly established that although the letter sent was one containing very personal statements and terms of endearment toward the actor, there was no historical evidence that the intended victim had even been in the United Kingdom at the time alleged, and so in the first instance the court referred to Donnelly v. U.S. in which the U.S. Supreme Court had held that:

“[O]ne may not be punished for crime against the United States unless the facts shown plainly and unmistakably constitute an offense within the meaning of an act of Congress.”

While also noting that in Fasulo v. U.S. the Court had again held that:

There are no constructive offenses; and, before one can be punished, it must be shown that his case is plainly within the statute.”

And so on this occasion the court noted that although the allegations suggested a purposeful attempt to defraud and thereby obtain money from the actor, the appellant was cognisant of the futility of such a plan when at the time of writing the letter, she knew that neither one of them had physically met, never mind engaged in any form of relationship, and so with no means upon which to properly convict, the court reversed the previous judgment in full, while reminding the litigants that:

“There can be no intent to deceive where it is known to the party making the representations that no deception can result.” 

Mayes v. People

US Criminal Law

Mayes
‘Still Life Beer’ by Neil Carroll

Death resulting from a reckless act is on most occasions deemed manslaughter, however with overwhelming evidence of wilful intent, the court cannot simply accept anything less than a charge of murder, as was explained in this case between the convicting State and the subjective argument of a clearly mentally distressed man.

The nature of this 1883 matter rests upon the testimony of both a grandmother and the defendant in error’s young daughter, who at the time of the offence witnessed their father return home from a nearby saloon in a drunken state, while obviously angry for reasons left unknown to the court.

Having entered the family home around 9pm, the defendant in error proceeded to request arsenic while explaining that either himself or the deceased needed to die, upon which the deceased made a number of strategic attempts to placate his temper and settle his mind.

After his refusing to eat food or engage with those around him, the defendant in error later sat alone and continued to make demands upon his wife and daughter, until for no sound reason he threw a tin of food at his daughter, who ran for safety as the deceased quickly followed with a gas lamp in hand, at which point the defendant in error forcefully threw a heavy beer glass at his wife, and upon which the glass struck the lamp and caused the ignited oil to spill all over her clothing.

Seemingly unwilling to assist the deceased, the defendant in error watched as she was engulfed in flames and suffered five major burns to her head, neck, legs and body, all of which led to her death some five days later, and so indicted in the Circuit Court of Jersey County the jury convicted the defendant in error of murder, whereupon he appealed the decision under writ of error in the Illinois Supreme Court.

Here the court first referred to § 140 of the Illinois Revised Statutes, which read that:

“Malice shall be implied when no considerable provocation appears, or when all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.” 

And then to Francis Wharton’s ‘A Treatise on the Law of Homicide in the United States’, in which p. 45 read that:  

“When an action, unlawful in itself, is done with deliberation, and with intention of mischief or great bodily harm to particulars, or of mischief indiscriminately, fall where it may, and death ensue, against or beside the original intention of the party, it will be murder.”

While the defendant in error continued to explain that he was simply attempting to dispose of the glass through an open rear door, a statement which was reasoned away by the two witnesses, who confirmed that the door was in fact closed at all times that evening. 

Thus with no reason to accept the alcohol-hazed recollection of a man claiming to have felt no ill-will toward the deceased, the court instead noted that had there been no aggression behind the act then the verdict would have likely been in doubt, however it was patently clear that harm was intended when assessing the impact of the glass upon the lamp, and so with little hesitation the court upheld the previous judgment while reminding those present that:

“Malice is an indispensable element to the crime of murder.” 

Nearly there…

United States Law: A Case Study Collection

Final update
‘Are we nearly there’ by Maureen Sherman

As I am now in the preparatory stages of this frankly amazing book, I thought it wise to share with you the work ahead, as for many of you that have never written nor self-published a book before, this kind of information is very useful should you ever decide to ‘take the bull’ by the horns so to speak.

As with any body of work there is a need to edit, proof-read, and index so as to allow future readers the opportunity to navigate the final product as they see fit, and so when reflecting upon how long it took me to finalise ‘The Case Law Compendium’, memory suggests that it took perhaps 1-2 weeks of work, and even then there were noticeable errors once committed to print.

By way of comparison, I have calculated that when working between 7-8 hours per day (without undue interruption), it will take me a little over two months to bring this title to fruition, which as you can imagine is substantially more than my last serious project, however this time around I feel beyond happy inside, and although there are no guarantees that anybody will ever want to buy a copy, I am unashamed to say that I have given all of myself into its writing, and that I have relished absolutely every second of the journey too.

On top of that, my mind and conversely my knowledge of law, is now way beyond anything I could of ever imagined when all of this started, and so if there’s anything that would make me even happier, it would be to have the chance to promote this book across the United States of America (a dream I know), and also to know that thousands of law students and law scholars will draw tremendous benefit from having read it, while to establish myself as a credible legal consultant either here or overseas would simply be the icing on the cake (unless someone out there is willing to help me become a US lawyer, in which case I would probably cry and then pass out).

And so with all of the above now put to electronic ink, I think it’s time for me to get back to work, and look forward to the day when this, my biggest project ever, gets to see the light of day, and hopefully catch the eyes of those seeking legal knowledge in a way never before delivered…so until then please just watch this space and thanks for reading.

 

Martin v. State

US Criminal Law

Martin v State
‘The Drunk’ by Alessandro Pomi

Liability for public drunk and disorderly behaviour under Alabama State law requires the defendant to display a willingness to appear so, while in this case the accused was found within the privacy of his own property at the time of arrest, thus the court was left explaining the process to those bringing charges.

After receiving reports of a drunken man walking along the local highway, the respondent police force located and apprehended the appellant in his home address, before charging him with public intoxication under § 120 of the Alabama Criminal Code of 1940, which read in relevant part that:

“Any person who, while intoxicated or drunk, appears in any public place where one or more persons are present….and manifests a drunken condition by boisterous or indecent conduct, or loud and profane discourse, shall, on conviction, be fined” 

Whereupon the Circuit Court of Houston County convicted the appellant accordingly, and after which he challenged the judgment in the Alabama Court of Appeals, who simply referred to Thomas v. State, in which the Georgia Court of Appeals had held that:

“[T]he place where the drunken condition exists is no less essential to the offense than the condition itself….”

While further noting that on this occasion the arresting officers had physically escorted the appellant from his house to the location described in order to secure their arrest, hence the court instantly reversed circuit court judgment in full while reminding the attending parties that: 

“[A]n accusation of drunkenness in a designated public place cannot be established by proof that the accused, while in an intoxicated condition, was involuntarily and forcibly carried to that place by the arresting officer. 

The tort law section is now finished!

United States Law: A Case Study Collection

Tort Law
‘Anger’ by Alla Dzevaltovska

After working on this final chapter of the book for the past few months, I’m very pleased to announce that it is now finally complete, which has left me feeling a mixture of emotions, particularly as this wonderful and frankly unprecedented project has been the primary focus of my energy since November 2017.

As I have always done with the previous disciplines shown in the forthcoming ‘United States Law’, the final listing is here for you to view, and so I can only hope that you enjoy reading about them as much as I have studying and preparing them for publication.

1. Aetna Health Inc. v. Davila

2. Anderson v. St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railway Co.

3. Beul v. ASSE International Inc.

4. BMW of North America Inc. v. Gore

5. Boim v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development

6. Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co.

7. Borsheim v. Great Northern Railway Co.

8. Brown v. Kendall

9. Burton v. Cowell Publishing Co.

10. Christensen v. Superior Court

11. Cox Broadcasting Corp. v. Cohn

12. Dillon v. Legg

13. Dillon v. Twin State Gas & Electric Co.

14. Dun & Bradstreet Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders Inc.

15. Earles v. Perkins

16. Escola v. Coca Cola Bottling Co. of Fresno

17. Falcon v. Memorial Hospital

18. Foster v. Preston Mill Co.

19. Garratt v. Dailey

20. Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc.

21. Goldberg v. Florida Power & Light Co.

22. Greenman v. Yuba Power Products Inc.

23. Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors Inc.

24. Intel Corp. v. Hamidi

25. Jacque v. Steenburg Homes Inc.

26. Katko v. Briney

27. Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Ave. Apartment Corp.

28. Knight v Jewett

29. MacPherson v Buick Motor Co.

30. Marshall v. Nugent

31. Martin v. Herzog

32. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. v. Buckley

33. Mohr v. Williams

34. Nash v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

35. New York Times Company v. Sullivan

36. Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co.

37. Philip Morris USA v. Williams

38. Ploof v. Putnam

39. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey v. Arcadian Corp.

40. Riss v. City of New York

41. Robins Dry Dock & Repair Co. v. Flint

42. Rowland v. Christian

43. Scribner v. Summer

44. Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories

45. Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain

46. Soule v. General Motors Corp.

47. Strauss v. Belle Realty Co.

48. Summers v. Tice

49. Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California

50. Tedla v. Ellman

51. The Florida Star v. B.J.F.

52. Time Inc. v. Hill

53. Tunkl v. Regents of University of California

54. Ultramares Corp. v. Touche

55. Vincent v. Lake Erie Transportation Co.

56. Vosburg v. Putney

57. Ybarra v. Spangard

58. Zeran v. America Online Inc.

U.S. v. Peoni

US Criminal Law

U.S. v. Peoni
‘Twenty Six Dollars’ by Victor Dubreuil

The limitations and inclusions of conspiracy have something of a chequered past, and so on this occasion a defendant known and proven to have sold forged dollar bills was charged with exerting influence over transactions that were not only beyond his actual control, but were also separated by time, space and possible knowledge, thus the job of the court was to establish where the proximate lines of culpability lay.

Sometime prior to 1938 the appellant was charged and convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York for possession of, and conspiracy to possess, counterfeit U.S. currency, whereupon he challenged the judgment in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here the court noted that in the chain of events prior to his conviction, the appellant had indeed possessed counterfeit money, but had since sold it on to a second party, who then in turn sold it to a third party within the same borough albeit unknown to the appellant.

First referring to 18 U.S.C.A. § 550, the court noted how it read that:

“Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.”

Which translated that had it been shown that the appellant was instrumental to the second transaction, he was rightfully convicted, after which the court turned to Anstess v. U.S., in which the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had held that:

“One who, with full knowledge of the purpose with which contraband goods are to be used, furnishes those goods to another to so use them, actively participates in the scheme or plan to so use them.”

However the court also noted how in Graves v. Johnson the Massachusetts Supreme Court had held that:

“[A] sale otherwise lawful is not connected with subsequent unlawful conduct by the mere fact that the seller correctly divines the buyer’s unlawful intent, closely enough to make the sale unlawful.”

And so the court reasoned that regardless of the illegality of the appellants initial possession, it was contrary to sound law that he should be held to account as the principle conspirator in a sequence of events that occurred after the fact of his selling the notes on, thus the conviction was quashed in its entirety, while the court reminded the attending parties that:

“Nobody is liable in conspiracy except for the fair import of the concerted purpose or agreement as he understands it; if later comers change that, he is not liable for the change; his liability is limited to the common purposes while he remains in it.”

Shevlin-Carpenter Co. v. State of Minn.

US Criminal Law

Shevlin
‘Fallen Timber’ by Jospeh Laverti

The constitutionality of statute drafted and designed to preserve the interests of a State, coupled with the presumption that such laws are irrelevant to the needs of commerce, provide the basis of a case where those later prosecuted are left arguing that word of mouth is sufficient grounds upon which to acquire property.

Having operated as a timber merchant under State licence, the plaintiff in error corporation found themselves in need of a second licence extension following the recent expiration of their previous reissue, and so instead of applying through the proper channels, chose to rely upon verbal declarations of State officials as to their ability to continue removing trees from government land.

For clarity at the time of the offence, § 7 of the Laws of Minnesota 1895 stated that:

“If any person, firm or corporation, without a valid and existing permit therefor, cuts or employs, or induces any other person, firm or corporation to cut, or assist in cutting any timber of whatsoever description, on state lands, or removes or carries away or employs, or induces or assists any other person, firm or corporation to remove or carry away any such timber, or other property, he shall be liable to the state in treble damages, if such trespass is adjudged to have been willful; but double damages only in case the trespass is adjudged to have been casual and involuntary….”

And so when the plaintiff in error’s activities were discovered, the defendant in error brought charges in the District Court of St. Louis County on grounds of wilful trespass, thus claiming treble damages as prescribed.

Here the court found for the defendant in error and awarded damages of around $44,000, whereupon the plaintiff in error challenged the judgment in the Minnesota Supreme Court, who upheld the judgment, while holding that:

“The Legislature may declare that a willful trespass upon the lands of another shall constitute a criminal offense and fix the limits of punishment therefor, either by fine or imprisonment, or by compensating the injured party in damages to be recovered in a civil action, or by both, as its judgment may dictate.”

After which the plaintiff in error appealed on grounds that it had acted in good faith and reliance upon the statements made by those with apparent authority, while in response the court referred to State v. Shevlin-Carpenter Co., in which it had earlier held that:

“Where the defendant is a willful trespasser, the measure of damages is the full value of the property at the time and place of demand; but, if he is only an unintentional or mistaken trespasser,-that is, where he honestly and reasonably believed that he had a legal right to take the property,-then the measure of damages is the value of the property at the time and place and in the condition it was taken.”

Before partially reversing their previous judgment and remanding the matter back in keeping with a significant reduction in damages, thus the plaintiff in error challenged the decision under writ of error in the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds that the statue was violative of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when denying due process, and that as such, no damages were due.

Having reexamined the facts and constitutional argument, along with the right to protect State property through appropriate statute, the Court reasoned that at no point was the questioned legislation hidden from view, nor remotely difficult to understand, while also noting that contrastingly, at no point in history had trespass ever been considered a harmless act.

In closing the Court also noted that despite the harshness of its construction, the State had proscribed the offence within constitutional bounds, and were therefore sound in their enforcement, after which it upheld the previous judgment in full, while holding that:

“[I]nnocence cannot be asserted of an action which violates existing law, and ignorance of the law will not excuse.”