Ableman v. Booth, 21 Howard (62 U.S.) 506; 16 L. Ed. 169 (1859)

Ableman v. Booth, 21 Howard (62 U.S.) 506; 16 L. Ed. 169 (1859)

Facts—Ableman, a U.S. marshal, held Booth in custody, pending his trial in a District Court of the United States on the charge of having aided the escape of a fugitive slave from the custody of a deputy marshal in Milwaukee. The supreme court of Wisconsin issued a writ of habeas corpus.

Question—Can a state court grant a writ of habeas corpus to a prisoner arrested under the authority of the United States and in federal custody?


ReasonsC.J. Taney (9–0). No state judge or court, after being judicially informed that the party is imprisoned under the authority of the United States, has the right to interfere with him, or to require him to be brought before them. And if the authority of the state, in the form of judicial process or otherwise, should attempt to control the marshal or other authorized officer or agent of the United States in any respect, in the custody of his prisoner, it would be his duty to resist it, and to call to his aid any force that might be necessary to maintain the authority of federal law against illegal interference. No judicial process, whatever form it may assume, can have any lawful authority outside the limits of the jurisdiction of the court or judge by whom it is issued; and an attempt to enforce it beyond these boundaries is nothing less than lawless violence.

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