Ex parte Yerger

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Ex parte Yerger
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 15, 1869
Decided October 25, 1869
Full case name Ex parte Edward M. Yerger
Citations 75 U.S. 85 (more)
19 L. Ed. 332; 1868 U.S. LEXIS 1085; 8 Wall. 85
Prior history Original
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Chase, joined by unanimous

Ex parte Yerger, 75 U.S. 85 (1869), was a case heard by the Supreme Court of the United States in which the court held that, under the Judiciary Act of 1789, it is authorized to issue writs of habeas corpus.


In June 1869 Edward M. Yerger stabbed to death Maj. Joseph G. Crane, who was the acting mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. Military authorities arrested Yerger and placed him on trial before a military commission. During the trial Yerger sought a writ of habeas corpus from the circuit court under the Judiciary Act of 1789, and, when the court denied him relief, he appealed to the Supreme Court. The circuit court upheld the military tribunal's jurisdiction over the proceeding under the First Reconstruction Act of 1867.

Opinion of the court[edit]

Chief Justice Chase held that while the United States Congress had enacted legislation in 1868 eliminating one route to a habeas corpus hearing before the court, the court could still hear cases of a similar nature under its appellate jurisdiction under the Judiciary Act of 1789. Chase concluded that the court had jurisdiction to hear the case and the power to direct its writ at a military officer.

Subsequent developments[edit]

At this point the attorney general and Yerger's counsel worked out a compromise in which the prisoner was turned over to civilian authorities for prosecution in Mississippi. The court was not actually forced to confront Congress on issues involving Reconstruction, and Congress in turn abandoned plans to completely abolish the court's appellate jurisdiction in habeas corpus cases. Yerger was placed in a Mississippi jail, but released on bail and quickly moved to Baltimore, where he died in 1875, never having been tried for murder.


  • PAUL FINKELMAN & MELVIN I. UROFSKY, Ex parte Yerger, in LANDMARK DECISIONS OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT (2003), available in CQ ELECTRONIC LIBRARY, CQ Supreme Court Collection, http://library.cqpress.com/scc/lndmrk03-113-6430-338597 (last visited April 4, 2007). Document ID: lndmrk03-113-6430-338597.

See also[edit]