Brief Fact Summary. After the United States (P) seized their fishing vessels, the owners (D) argued that international law exempted coastal fishermen from capture as prizes of war.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Exemptions from capture as prizes of war includes coastal fishing vessels, their cargoes and their crews.
Issue. does exemptions from capture as prizes of war includes coastal fishing vessels, their cargoes and crews?
Held. (Gray, J.) Yes. Exemption from capture as prizes of war includes coastal fishing vessels, their cargoes and their crews. This doctrine above has been familiar to the United States from the time of the War of Independence, and has been recognized explicitly by the French and British governments.
Pertaining to this case, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations because there were no treaties and no controlling executive or legislative acts or judicial decisions, and as to the evidence of these, to the works of jurists and commentators, who are well acquainted with the field. So therefore, for trustworthy evidence of what the law really is, such works are resorted to by judicial tribunals and not the speculations of their authors concerning what the law ought to be.
By the general consent of the world as of present time, and independently of any express treaty or other public act, coastal fishing vessels with their implements, supplies, cargoes and crews, unarmed and honestly pursuing their job of catching and bringing in fresh fish, are exempt from capture as prizes of war and this is an established rule of international law. Reversed.
Discussion. the Chief Justice Fuller argued that the captured vessels were of such a size and range which did not fall within the exemption. This dissenting opinion was not captured in the main book of this casebook. That the exemption in any case had not become a customary rule of international law and the fact that it was only an â€œact of graceâ€ that had not been authorized by the President, was also contended by the Chief Justice.