Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ableman v. Booth VI: "A Wicked and Cruel Enactment"

Having duly chastised Booth's tactics, Associate Justice Smith addressed the claimed technical defects in the warrant and proceeded to find the warrant lacking in respects that are, let us say, trivial at best. They are not worth lingering over, except to see a judge engage in hypertechnicality in order to reach a particular result. For example, the warrant stated that Booth had aided the escape of Glover, who was held in service to Garland, but it did not state that Garland had "claimed" Glover. The warrant also stated that Glover was in custody when Booth aided his escape, but it did not state that Glover "was in such custody as a fugitive from labor."

Justice Smith then explained why he was prepared to rely on such trivialities:

"No greater strictness is applied to this warrant than the law applies to all process of that class; though a much stricter rule might be justified; for this is a wicked and cruel enactment, and those who feel compelled to execute it, may well require of those who demand official service at their hands, that in taking their 'pound of flesh' they shall not 'shed one drop of christian blood.'"

(Emphasis added)

For these reasons, Justice Smith concluded that the warrant was "clearly, substantially and radically insufficient, and the petitioner is therefore entitled to a discharge."

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