Grisham v. Hagan

LOCATION: Calumet River

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 361 US 278 (1960)
ARGUED: Oct 22, 1959
DECIDED: Jan 18, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for Grisham v. Hagan

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 22, 1959 in Grisham v. Hagan

Earl Warren:

Number 58, Albert H. Grisham, Petitioner, versus Charles R. Hagan, Warden.

Charles Wolfe Kalp:

Mr. Chief Justice --

Earl Warren:

Mr. Kalp.

Charles Wolfe Kalp:

-- may it please the Court.

We have here another action of habeas corpus testing the authority or seeking to test the authority of the military to try a civilian by military court-martial.

The specific question involved here is whether the Constitution permits the trial of civilian employee of the army by military court-martial in France for a capital offense in time of peace.

The judicial history of this case began in December 1952 when Grisham was charged with the -- he was then a citizen of the United States and as I say a civilian employee and an accountant of the army, serving with the armed forces in France with a GS-9 civil service rating.

When he was charged with the capital offense of premeditated murder under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he was tried by a military court-martial, a general court-martial convened in Orleans, France.

He was convicted of the lesser included offense of unpremeditated murder, was sentenced to 35 or to life imprisonment and hard labor, which was subsequently reduced to 35 years by executive clemency.

Grisham has exhausted all of his administrative remedies under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

He -- then, on October 26th, 1957 while serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court with another district alleging that his confinement was in violation of Article III and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the Constitution.

This case was heard before Honorable Frederick B. 0Bone and was argued and on April 22nd, 1958, the District Court filed an opinion dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus.

An appeal was immediately taken to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, which was argued before the Third Circuit on October 24, 1958.

On November 20, an opinion was filed by the Court of Appeals affirming the judgment of the District Court, opinion by Judge Goodrich.

A petition for writ of certiorari followed which is the question now before this Court.

Now --

Earl Warren:

Is your jurisdictional question here any different at all from Reid versus Covert except in that case the defendant was -- the defendant in this case is civilian employee?

Charles Wolfe Kalp:

Our contention is that there is absolutely no other distinction factually.

The cases are identical with the exception of that fact.

Now, the facts of this case are that the petitioner had been employed as a cost accountant, a civil service employee of the army engineers at Nashville, Tennessee continuously since 1936.

Except for some time, some leave which he had during the Second World War going to the military.

In September 1952, he was temporarily assigned by the District Engineers at Nashville to duty with the District Engineers at Orleans, France.

Now, while employed by the Nashville office of the District Engineers, his work consisted primarily of multiple purpose setting up cost accounting systems in connection with multiple purpose dams and river and harbor improvements, civil works.

When he was assigned to the Orleans office in France with the District Engineers, he was given a job of setting up a cost accounting system for communications line between Germany and France.

He arrived in France on October 1st, 1952.

His wife arrived about November 30th, 1952.

And he and his wife were living in the City of Orleans in an apartment rented from a French civilian.

They were not living on the military base.

On the night of December 6th, the petitioner and his wife attended a cocktail party given by an officer at the base and both of them had a considerable amount of drink.

Early in the morning of December 7th, the next morning of 1952, the petitioner notified both the French civilian authorities and the United States military authorities that his wife was dead.