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decided: December 4, 1933.



Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo

Author: Stone

[ 290 U.S. Page 286]

 MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

On complaint of the British Consul, a United States Commissioner for the Northern District of Illinois issued his warrant to hold petitioner in custody for extradition to England, under Article X of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 (1 Malloy's Treaties, pp. 650, 655) as supplemented by the Blaine-Pauncefote Convention of 1889 (1 Malloy's Treaties, 740) and certified the evidence in the proceeding before him to the Secretary of State under the provisions of § 651, Tit. 18, U. S. C.A. The application for extradition was based on a charge that petitioner, at London, had "received from Broadstreet Press Limited" certain sums of money, "knowing the same to have been fraudulently obtained." Upon application by the petitioner for writ of habeas corpus, and certiorari in its aid, the District Court for Northern Illinois, ordered him released from custody on the ground that the act charged was not embraced within the applicable treaties because not an offense under the laws of Illinois, the state in which he was apprehended and held. On appeal the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment of the District Court, 61 F.2d 626, on the ground that the offense was a crime in Illinois, as had been declared in Kelly v. Griffin, 241 U.S. 6. This Court granted certiorari, 289 U.S. 713, on a petition which presented as ground for the reversal of the judgment below that, under the Treaty of 1842 and Convention of 1889, extradition may not be had unless the offense charged is a crime under the law of the state where the fugitive is found and that "receiving money, knowing the same to have been fraudulently obtained," the crime with which the petitioner was charged, is not an offense under the laws of Illinois.

In support of this contention, petitioner asserts that it is a general principle of international law that an offense for which extradition may be had must be a crime both in the demanding country and in the place where

[ 290 U.S. Page 287]

     the fugitive is found, and that the applicable treaty provisions, interpreted in the light of that principle, exclude any right of either country to demand the extradition of a fugitive unless the offense with which he is charged is a crime in the particular place of asylum. See Wright v. Henkel, 190 U.S. 40, 61. But the principles of international law recognize no right to extradition apart from treaty. While a government may, if agreeable to its own constitution and laws, voluntarily exercise the power to surrender a fugitive from justice to the country from which he has fled, and it has been said that it is under a moral duty to do so, (see 1 Moore, Extradition, § 14; Clarke, Extradition, 4th ed., p. 14) the legal right to demand his extradition and the correlative duty to surrender him to the demanding country exist only when created by treaty. See United States v. Rauscher, 119 U.S. 407, 411, 412; Holmes v. Jennison, 14 Pet. 540, 569, 582; United States v. Davis, 2 Sumner 482; Case of Jose Ferreira dos Santos, 2 Brock. 493; Commonwealth ex rel. Short v. Deacon, 10 S. & R. 125; 1 Moore, Extradition, §§ 9-13; cf. Matter of Washburn, 4 Johns. Ch. 105, 107; 1 Kent. Com. 37. To determine the nature and extent of the right we must look to the treaty which created it. The question presented here, therefore, is one of the construction of the provisions of the applicable treaties in accordance with the principles governing the interpretation of international agreements.

The extradition provisions of the treaty with Great Britain of 1842*fn1 are embodied in Article X, which provides

[ 290 U.S. Page 288]

     that each country "shall . . . deliver up to Justice all persons who, being charged with" any of seven named crimes "committed within the jurisdiction of either, shall seek an asylum or shall be found within the territories of the other." The crime charged here is not one of those specified in Article X and is therefore not an offense with respect to which extradition may be demanded, unless made so by the provisions of the supplemental convention of 1889. That convention recites that it is desired by the high contracting parties that the provisions of Article X of the earlier treaty should "embrace certain crimes not therein specified," and agrees by Article I*fn2 that the provisions of Article X of the earlier treaty

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     shall be made applicable to an added schedule of crimes specified in ten numbered classes of offenses and one unnumbered class. In the case of certain offenses, those enumerated in the classes numbered 4 and 10, and in the unnumbered class, Article X applies only if they are, in the former case, "made criminal" and, in the latter,

[ 290 U.S. Page 290]

     "punishable," "by the laws of both countries." No such limitation is expressed with respect to the crimes enumerated in the other eight classes, one of which, the third, includes the crime with which petitioner is charged. Thus, like Article X of the earlier treaty, Article I specifies by name those offenses upon accusation of which the fugitive is to be surrendered and it extends to them the obligation of the earlier treaty. But Article I, unlike Article X, singles out for exceptional treatment certain of the offenses named, which in terms are brought within the obligation of the treaty only if they are made criminal by the laws of both countries.

Notwithstanding this distinction, appearing on the face of the Convention, petitioner insists that in no case does it require extradition of a fugitive who has sought asylum in the United States unless the criminal act with which he is charged abroad is similarly defined as a crime by the laws of the particular state, district or territory of the United States in which he is found. The only language in the two treaties said to support this contention is the proviso in Article X of the treaty of 1842, following the engagement to surrender fugitives charged with specified offenses, which reads as follows:

"Provided, that this shall only be done upon such evidence of criminality as, according to the laws of the place where the fugitive or person so charged shall be found, would justify his apprehension and commitment for trial if the crime or offence had there been committed; . . ."

It cannot be said that these words give any clear indication that a fugitive charged with acts constituting a crime named in the treaty is not to be subject to extradition unless those acts are also defined as criminal by the laws of the state in which he is apprehended. The proviso would appear more naturally to refer to the procedure to be followed in the country of the asylum in asserting and making effective the obligation of the treaty

[ 290 U.S. Page 291]

     and particularly to the quantum of proof -- the "evidence" -- which is to be required at the place of asylum to establish the fact that the fugitive has committed the treaty offense within the jurisdiction of the demanding country.

When the treaty was adopted there was no statutory provision of the United States regulating the procedure to be followed in securing extradition of the fugitive, and the necessary procedure was provided in the treaty itself. By the proviso, the observance of the laws of the place of refuge is exacted in apprehending and detaining the fugitive. See Benson v. McMahon, 127 U.S. 457; In re Metzger, 17 Fed. Cas. 232. It prescribes a method of procedure, in conformity with local law, by which compliance with the obligation of the treaty may be exacted at the place of refuge; and sets up a standard by which to measure the amount of the proof of the offense charged which the treaty requires as prerequisite to extradition. The standard thus adopted is that which under local law would determine the sufficiency of the evidence to justify the apprehension and commitment "if the crime or offense had there been committed."*fn3

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     Were Article X intended to have the added meaning insisted upon by petitioner, that there should be no extradition unless the act charged is one made criminal by the laws of the place of refuge, that meaning would naturally have been expressed in connection with the enumeration of the treaty offenses, rather than in the proviso which, in its whole scope, deals with procedure. That no such meaning can fairly be attributed to the proviso becomes evident when Article X is read, as for present purposes it must be, with the supplementary provisions of the Convention of 1889.

The draftsmen of the latter document obviously treated the proviso as dealing with procedure alone, since they took care to provide in Article I that fugitives should be subject to extradition for certain offenses, only if they were defined as criminal by the laws of both countries, but omitted any such provision with respect to all the others enumerated, including the crime of "receiving," with which petitioner is charged.*fn4 This was an unnecessary

[ 290 U.S. Page 293]

     precaution and one not consistently taken if the proviso already precluded extradition when the offense charged is not also criminal in the particular place of asylum. A less strained and entirely consistent construction is that urged by respondent, that the specification of the crime of "receiving," as a treaty offense, without qualification, evidenced an intention to dispense with the restriction applied to other treaty offenses, that they must be crimes "by the laws of both countries."

In choosing between conflicting interpretations of a treaty obligation, a narrow and restricted construction is to be avoided as not consonant with the principles deemed controlling in the interpretation of international agreements. Considerations which should govern the diplomatic relations between nations, and the good faith of treaties, as well, require that their obligations should be liberally construed so as to effect the apparent intention of the parties to secure equality and reciprocity between them. For that reason if a treaty fairly admits of two constructions,

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     one restricting the rights which may be claimed under it, and the other enlarging it, the more liberal construction is to be preferred. Jordan v. Tashiro, 278 U.S. 123, 127; Geofroy v. Riggs, 133 U.S. 258, 271; In re Ross, 140 U.S. 453, 475; Tucker v. Alexandroff, 183 U.S. 424, 437; Asakura v. Seattle, 265 U.S. 332. Unless these principles, consistently recognized and applied by this Court, are now to be discarded, their application here leads inescapably to the conclusion that the treaties, presently involved, on their face require the extradition of the petitioner, even though the act with which he is charged would not be a crime if committed in Illinois.

In ascertaining the meaning of a treaty we may look beyond its written words to the negotiations and diplomatic correspondence of the contracting parties relating

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     to the subject matter, and to their own practical construction of it. Nielsen v. Johnson, 279 U.S. 47, 52; In re Ross, supra, 467; United States v. Texas, 162 U.S. 1, 23; Kinkead v. United States, 150 U.S. 483, 486; Terrace v. Thompson, 263 U.S. 197, 223. And in resolving doubts the construction of a treaty by the political department of the government, while not conclusive upon courts called upon to construe it, is nevertheless of weight. Nielsen v. Johnson, supra, 52; Charlton v. Kelly, 229 U.S. 447, 468. But the exhaustive search, by counsel, through available diplomatic records and correspondence, in response to the invitation of the Court in its order for reargument of this cause, has disclosed nothing in diplomatic history which would afford a basis for any different conclusion.

Within two years of the proclamation of the Treaty of 1842, our State Department had occasion to construe the provisions of Article X, now under consideration, and to take a definite position as to their scope and meaning. Certain fugitive slaves, charged with robbery and murder by indictment of the grand jury for the District of Florida, had fled to Napan in the Bahama Islands. Requisition was made in due course for their extradition, and the Governor of the Bahamas, in conformity to the local procedure, issued his requisition for the fugitives to the Chief Justice of the Colony. The court over which he presided refused to order the extradition of the fugitives and directed their discharge on the grounds that the indictment was not of itself sufficient evidence of the commission of the offense and that the offense charged, apparently committed by the slaves in effecting their escape, although criminal in Florida, did not appear to be so under British law.

From the ensuing diplomatic correspondence it clearly appears that this government then asserted that the Treaty of 1842 obligated both parties to surrender fugitives duly charged with any of the offenses specified in

[ 290 U.S. Page 296]

     Article X without regard to the criminal quality of the fugitive's acts under the law of the place of asylum. This contention was supported by full and cogent argument in the course of which it was specifically pointed out that the proviso of Article X relates to the procedure to be followed in asserting rights under the treaty and is not a limitation upon the definition of the offenses with respect to which extradition might be demanded.*fn5

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     The political department of the government, before the negotiation of the Convention of 1889, had thus clearly

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     and emphatically taken the position that the correct construction of Article X is that for which respondent contends here, a construction which, as already indicated, is supported and confirmed by the provisions of the Convention of 1889. Our government does not appear to have receded from that position, and while the British Government has never definitely yielded to it, except insofar as the arguments addressed to us in behalf of the respondent may be taken to have that effect, that fact, or even the failure of Great Britain to comply with the obligations of the treaty, would not be ground for refusal by this government to honor them or by this Court to apply them. Until a treaty has been denounced, it is the duty of both the government and the courts to sanction the performance of the obligations reciprocal to the rights which the treaty declares and the government asserts, even though the other party to it holds to a different view of its meaning. Charlton v. Kelly, supra, 472, 473. The diplomatic history of the treaty provisions thus lends support to the construction which we think should be placed upon them when read without extraneous aid, but with that liberality demanded generally in the interpretation of international obligations.

Other considerations peculiarly applicable to treaties for extradition, and to these treaties in particular, fortify this conclusion. The surrender of a fugitive, duly charged in the country from which he has fled with a non-political offense and one generally recognized as criminal at the place of asylum, involves no impairment of any legitimate public or private interest. The obligation to do what some nations have done voluntarily, in the interest of justice and friendly international relationships, see 1 Moore, Extradition, § 40, should be construed more liberally than a criminal statute or the technical requirements of criminal procedure. Grin v. Shine, 187 U.S. 181, 184; Yordi v.

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     laws in force within its own territory.*fn8 But that policy, when carried into effect by treaty designation of offenses with respect to which extradition is to be granted, affords no adequate basis for declining to construe the treaty in accordance with its language, or for saying that its obligation, in the absence of some express requirement, is conditioned on the criminality of the offense charged according to the laws of the particular place of asylum. Once the contracting parties are satisfied that an identified offense is generally recognized as criminal in both countries, there is no occasion for stipulating that extradition shall fail merely because the fugitive may succeed in finding, in the country of refuge, some state, territory or district in which the offense charged is not punishable. No reason is suggested or apparent why the solemn and unconditional engagement to surrender a fugitive charged with the named offense of which petitioner is accused should admit of any inquiry as to the criminal quality of the act charged at the place of asylum beyond that necessary to make certain that the offense charged is one named in the treaty. See Collins v. Loisel, 259 U.S. 309, 317; Grin v. Shine, supra, 188.

It is of some significance also that the construction which petitioner urges would restrict the reciprocal operation of the treaty. Under that construction the right to extradition from the United States may vary with the state or territory where the fugitive is found although extradition may be had from Great Britain with respect to all the offenses named in the treaty. While under the laws of Great Britain extradition treaties are not self-executing, and effect must be given to them by an act of Parliament designating the crimes, upon charge of which

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     extradition from Great Britain and its dependencies may be had, all the offenses named in the two treaties have been so designated by Acts of Parliament of 1870, 33 and 34 Victoria, c. 52, as amended by Act of 1873, 36 and 37 Victoria, c. 60.

The District Court for Southern New York, decided, in 1847, that the proviso in the Extradition Treaty with France of November 9, 1843, like that in Article X, did not require that the treaty offense charged to have been committed in France should also be a crime in New York, the place of asylum. In re Metzger, supra. The precise question now before us seems not to have been decided in any other case, and in no case in this Court has extradition been denied because the offense charged was not also criminal by the laws of the place of refuge. In Wright v. Henkel, supra, the offense charged, fraud by a director of a company, was, by paragraph 4 of Article I of the Convention of 1889, a treaty offense only if made criminal by the laws of both countries. In Collins v. Loisel, supra, and in Kelly v. Griffin, supra, the question was whether the crime charged was a treaty offense. The court so held and the right to extradition was sustained. The offense charged was said to be a crime in both countries, and it seems to have been assumed without discussion, and not questioned, that its criminality at the place of asylum was necessary to extradition. See also Bingham v. Bradley, 241 U.S. 511, 518. That assumption is shown here to have been unfounded.

The petitioner also objects that the Dawes-Simon extradition treaty with Great Britain of 1932, 47 Stat. 2122, is now in force; that it does not name as a treaty offense the receiving of money, knowing it to have been fraudulently obtained, the crime with which petitioner is charged, and, that by abrogating ...

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