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Ex Parte Siebold

Significance, Stuffing The Ballot Box, Who Is In Charge?, The Court Fights Back


Albert Siebold, Walter Tucker, Martin C. Burns, Lewis Coleman, Henry Bowers


State of Maryland

Petitioners' Claim

The petitioners were all election judges from Baltimore who had been convicted in federal court and subsequently sentenced to prison for stuffing ballot boxes and related incidents of election fraud in a congressional election in Maryland. They sought a writ of habeas corpus "to be relieved from imprisonment" on the grounds that Congress had no power to punish state officials for violating the laws of their own state.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioners

Bradley T. Johnson

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

Charles Devens, U.S. Attorney General

Justices for the Court

Joseph P. Bradley (writing for the Court), John Marshall Harlan I, Ward Hunt, Samuel Freeman Miller, William Strong, Noah Haynes Swayne, Morrison Remick Waite

Justices Dissenting

Nathan Clifford, Stephen Johnson Field


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

8 March 1880


Congress has the right to regulate federal elections, even if state laws also regulated the same elections, so the prison sentence stood and the writ of habeas corpus was denied.

The Court and Civil Rights

For much of the Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction period, the Supreme Court was fairly conservative. In Ex parte Siebold, however, it took an unusually strong stand in support of the federal government's right and responsibility to protect the voting rights of all Americans.

Related Cases

  • Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884).
  • United States v. Mosley, 238 U.S. 383 (1915).

Further Readings

  • Bardolph, Richard, ed. The Civil Rights Record: Black Americans and the Law, 1849-1970, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1970.
  • Biskupic, Joan, and Elder Witt, eds. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1996.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882