Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87; 45 S. Ct. 332; 169 L. Ed. 527 (1925)

Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87; 45 S. Ct. 332; 169 L. Ed. 527 (1925)

Facts—Philip Grossman was sued for violating the National Prohibition Act. The District Court of Chicago granted an injunction against him. Two days later an information was filed against him that he had violated the temporary order, and he was arrested, tried, found guilty of contempt, and sentenced to one year and $1,000 fine. The president granted a pardon, on the condition that Grossman pay the fine. After he was released, he was sent by the court to the House of Correction to serve the sentence, despite the pardon.

Question—Does the president have power to pardon this type of offense?


ReasonsC.J. Taft (9–0). Contempt are crimes even though no trial by jury is allowed, as they are infractions of the laws and are intended as efforts to defeat the operation of a court order. That which violates the dignity and authority of federal courts, such as an intentional effort to defeat their decrees, violates a law of the United States and so is an offense against the United States. “For civil contempt, the punishment is remedial and for the benefit of the complainant, and a pardon cannot stop it. For criminal contempt, the sentence is punitive in the public interest to vindicate the authority of the court and to deter other like derelictions. The executive can reprieve or pardon all offenses after their commission, either before trial, during trial or after trial, by individuals, or by classes, conditionally or absolutely, and this without modification or regulation by Congress.”

Note—The president’s pardoning power is found in the Constitution (Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1): “The power flows from the Constitution alone . . .and . . . it cannot be modified, abridged, or diminished by the Congress.” See Schick v. Reed, 419 U.S. 256 (1974). In 1977 President Carter issued a blanket pardon to Vietnam draft dodgers but not to servicemen who deserted. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan rejected a chal- lenge of President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon in Murphy v. Ford, 390 F.SUPP.1372 (1975).

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