The Supreme Court ended a long-standing dispute by disavowing the existence of a federal common law for crimes.
For ten years, the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists had disagreed over whether there was a federal common law for criminal offenses. Barzillai Hudson and George Goodwin, who published a report linking Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte, were indicted for common-law seditious libel in federal court. The Democratic Republicans believed that the branches of the federal government held only the powers specifically granted by the Constitution, and therefore, federal courts did not have the power to enforce common-law crimes. The Court, on which Democratic Republican appointees were in the majority, dismissed the indictments, resolving the dispute. The case remains a valid holding.
Common law, federal