|Ex parte Garland
100 U.S. 1
[ Field ]
[ Miller ]
Ex parte Garland
Mr. Justice FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.
On the second of July, 1862, Congress passed an act prescribing an oath to be taken by every person elected or appointed to any office of honor or profit under the government of the United States, either in the civil, military, or naval departments of the public service, except the President, before entering upon the duties of his office, and before being entitled to its salary, or other emoluments. On the 24th of January, 1865, Congress, by a supplementary act, extended its provisions so as to embrace attorneys and counselors of the courts of the United States. This latter act provides that, after its passage, no person shall be admitted as an attorney and counselor to the bar of the Supreme Court, and, after the fourth of March, 1865, to the bar of any Circuit or District Court of the United States, or of the Court of Claims, or be allowed to appear and be heard by virtue of any previous admission, or any special power of attorney, [p375] unless he shall have first taken and subscribed the oath prescribed by the act of July 2d, 1862. It also provides that the oath shall be preserved among the files of the court, and if any person take it falsely, he shall be guilty of perjury and, upon conviction, shall be subject to the pains and penalties of that offence.
At the December Term, 1860, the petitioner was admitted as an attorney and counselor of this court, and took and subscribed the oath then required. By the second rule, as it then existed, it was only requisite to the admission of attorneys and counselors of this court that they should have been such officers for the three previous years in the highest courts of the States to which they respectively belonged, and that their private and professional character should appear to be fair.
In March, 1865, this rule was changed by the addition of a clause requiring the administration of the oath in conformity with the act of Congress.
In May, 1861, the State of Arkansas, of which the petitioner was a citizen, passed an ordinance of secession which purported to withdraw the State from the Union, and afterwards, in the same year, by another ordinance, attached herself to the so-called Confederate States, and by act of the congress of that confederacy was received as one of its members.
The petitioner followed the State, and was one of her representatives -- first in the lower house and afterwards in the senate of the congress of that confederacy, and was a member of the senate at the time of the surrender of the Confederate forces to the armies of the United States.
In July, 1865, he received from the President of the United States a full pardon for all offences committed by his participation, direct or implied, in the Rebellion. He now produces his pardon, and asks permission to continue to practise as an attorney and counselor of the court without taking the oath required by the act of January 24th, 1865, and the rule of the court, which he is unable to take by reason of the offices he held under the Confederate government. [p376] He rests his application principally upon two grounds:
1st. That the act of January 24th, 1865, so far as it affects his status in the court, is unconstitutional and void, and,
2d. That, if the act be constitutional, he is released from compliance with its provisions by the pardon of the President.
The oath prescribed by the act is as follows:
1st. That the deponent has never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since he has been a citizen thereof;
2d. That he has not voluntarily given aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto;
3d. That he has never sought, accepted, or attempted to exercise the functions of any office whatsoever, under any authority, or pretended authority, in hostility to the United States;
4th. That he has not yielded a voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power, or constitution, within the United States, hostile or inimical thereto; and,
5th. That he will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
This last clause is promissory only, and requires no consideration. The questions presented for our determination arise from the other clauses. These all relate to past acts. Some of these acts constituted, when they were committed, offences against the criminal laws of the country; others may or may not have been offences according to the circumstances under which they were committed and the motives of the parties. The first clause covers one form of the crime of treason, and the deponent must declare that he has not been guilty of this crime not only during the war of the Rebellion, but during any period of his life since he has been a citizen. The second clause goes beyond the limits of treason, and embraces not only the giving of aid and encouragement of a treasonable nature to a public enemy, but also the giving of assistance of any kind to persons engaged [p377] in armed hostility to the United States. The third clause applies to the seeking, acceptance, or exercise not only of offices created for the purpose of more effectually carrying on hostilities, but also of any of those offices which are required in every community, whether in peace or war, for the administration of justice and the preservation of order. The fourth clause not only includes those who gave a cordial and active support to the hostile government, but also those who yielded a reluctant obedience to the existing order, established without their co-operation.
The statute is directed against parties who have offended in any of the particulars embraced by these clauses. And its object is to exclude them from the profession of the law, or at least from its practice in the courts of the United States. As the oath prescribed cannot be taken by these parties, the act, as against them, operates as a legislative decree of perpetual exclusion. And exclusion from any of the professions or any of the ordinary avocations of life for past conduct can be regarded in no other light than as punishment for such conduct. The exaction of the oath is the mode provided for ascertaining the parties upon whom the act is intended to operate, and, instead of lessening, increases its objectionable character. All enactments of this kind partake of the nature of bills of pains and penalties, and are subject to the constitutional inhibition against the passage of bills of attainder, under which general designation they are included.
In the exclusion which the statute adjudges, it imposes a punishment for some of the acts specified which were not punishable at the time they were committed, and, for other of the acts, it adds a new punishment to that before prescribed, and it is thus brought within the further inhibition of the Constitution against the passage of an ex post facto law. In the case of Cummings against The State of Missouri, just decided, we have had occasion to consider at length the meaning of a bill of attainder and of an ex post facto law in the clause of the Constitution forbidding their passage by the States, and it is unnecessary to repeat here [p378] what we there said. A like prohibition is contained in the Constitution against enactments of this kind by Congress, and the argument presented in that case against certain clauses of the constitution of Missouri is equally applicable to the act of Congress under consideration in this case.
The profession of an attorney and counselor is not like an office created by an act of Congress, which depends for its continuance, its powers, and its emoluments upon the will of its creator, and the possession of which may be burdened with any conditions not prohibited by the Constitution. Attorneys and counselors are not officers of the United States; they are not elected or appointed in the manner prescribed by the Constitution for the election and appointment of such officers. They are officers of the court, admitted as such by its order upon evidence of their possessing sufficient legal learning and fair private character. It has been the general practice in this country to obtain this evidence by an examination of the parties. In this court, the fact of the admission of such officers in the highest court of the States to which they respectively belong, for three years preceding their application, is regarded as sufficient evidence of the possession of the requisite legal learning, and the statement of counsel moving their admission sufficient evidence that their private and professional character is fair. The order of admission is the judgment of the court that the parties possess the requisite qualifications as attorneys and counselors, and are entitled to appear as such and conduct causes therein. From its entry, the parties become officers of the court, and are responsible to it for professional misconduct. They hold their office during good behavior, and can only be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained and declared by the judgment of the court after opportunity to be heard has been afforded. [n3] Their admission or their exclusion is not the exercise of a mere ministerial power. It is the exercise of [p379] judicial power, and has been so held in numerous cases. It was so held by the Court of Appeals of New York in the matter of the application of Cooper for admission. [n4] "Attorneys and counselors," said that court,
are not only officers of the court, but officers whose duties relate almost exclusively to proceedings of a judicial nature. And hence their appointment may, with propriety, be intrusted to the courts, and the latter in performing this duty may very justly be considered as engaged in the exercise of their appropriate judicial functions.
In Ex parte Secombe, [n5] a mandamus to the Supreme Court of the Territory of Minnesota to vacate an order removing an attorney and counselor was denied by this court on the ground that the removal was a judicial act. "We are not aware of any case," said the court,
where a mandamus was issued to an inferior tribunal, commanding it to reverse or annul its decision, where the decision was in its nature a judicial act and within the scope of its jurisdiction and discretion.
And, in the same case, the court observed that
it has been well settled by the rules and practice of common law courts that it rests exclusively with the court to determine who is qualified to become one of its officers as an attorney and counselor, and for what cause he ought to be removed.
The attorney and counselor, being by the solemn judicial act of the court clothed with his office, does not hold it as a matter of grace and favor. The right which it confers upon him to appear for suitors and to argue causes is something more than a mere indulgence, revocable at the pleasure of the court or at the command of the legislature. It is a right of which he can only be deprived by the judgment of the court for moral or professional delinquency.
The legislature may undoubtedly prescribe qualifications for the office to which he must conform, as it may, where it has exclusive jurisdiction, prescribe qualifications for the pursuit of any of the ordinary avocations of life. The [p380] question in the case is not as to the power of Congress to prescribe qualifications, but whether that power has been exercised as a means for the infliction of punishment, against the prohibition of the Constitution. That this result cannot be effected indirectly by a State under the form of creating qualifications we have held in the case of Cummings v. The State of Missouri, and the reasoning by which that conclusion was reached applies equally to similar action on the part of Congress.
This view is strengthened by a consideration of the effect of the pardon produced by the petitioner, and the nature of the pardoning power of the President.
The Constitution provides that the President "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." [n6]
The power thus conferred is unlimited, with the exception stated. It extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency or after conviction and judgment. This power of the President is not subject to legislative control. Congress can neither limit the effect of his pardon nor exclude from its exercise any class of offenders. The benign prerogative of mercy reposed in him cannot be fettered by any legislative restrictions.
Such being the case, the inquiry arises as to the effect and operation of a pardon, and on this point all the authorities concur. A pardon reaches both the punishment prescribed for the offence and the guilt of the offender, and when the pardon is full, it releases the punishment and blots out of existence the guilt, so that, in the eye of the law, the offender is as innocent as if he had never committed the offence. If granted before conviction, it prevents any of the penalties and disabilities consequent upon conviction from attaching; if granted after conviction, it removes the penalties and disabilities and restores him to all his civil rights; it makes [p381] him, as it were, a new man, and gives him a new credit and capacity.
There is only this limitation to its operation: it does not restore offices forfeited or property or interests vested in others in consequence of the conviction and judgment. [n7]
The pardon produced by the petitioner is a full pardon "for all offences by him committed, arising from participation, direct or implied, in the Rebellion," and is subject to certain conditions which have been complied with. The effect of this pardon is to relieve the petitioner from all penalties and disabilities attached to the offence of treason, committed by his participation in the Rebellion. So far as that offence is concerned, he is thus placed beyond the reach of punishment of any kind. But to exclude him, by reason of that offence, from continuing in the enjoyment of a previously acquired right is to enforce a punishment for that offence notwithstanding the pardon. If such exclusion can be effected by the exaction of an expurgatory oath covering the offence, the pardon may be avoided, and that accomplished indirectly which cannot be reached by direct legislation. It is not within the constitutional power of Congress thus to inflict punishment beyond the reach of executive clemency. From the petitioner, therefore, the oath required by the act of January 24th, 1865, could not be exacted even if that act were not subject to any other objection than the one thus stated.
It follows, from the views expressed, that the prayer of the petitioner must be granted.
The case of R. H. Marr is similar in its main features to that of the petitioner, and his petition must also be granted.
And the amendment of the second rule of the court, which requires the oath prescribed by the act of January 24th, 1865, to be taken by attorneys and counselors, having been unadvisedly adopted, must be rescinded.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED. [p382]
1. 12 Stat. at Large 502.
2. 13 Stat. at Large 424.
3. Ex parte Heyfron, 7 Howard, Mississippi 127; Fletcher v. Daingerfield, 20 California 430.
4. 22 New York 81.
5. 19 Howard 9.
6. Article II, § 2.
7. 4 Blackstone's Commentaries, 402; 6 Bacon's Abridgment, tit. Pardon; Hawkins, book 2, c. 37, §§ 34 and 54.