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February 18, 1911


Author Affiliations

Of the Bar of the District of Columbia WASHINGTON, D. C.

JAMA. 1911;LVI(7):489-492. doi:10.1001/jama.1911.02560070021007

The constitution of the United States1 provides that "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

It is important at the outset that we have clearly before us in the consideration of this paper a precise idea of the legal significance and aim of the great writ to which it relates. A concise definition, which has generally been accepted as a most complete one, is that given in "Hurd on Habeas Corpus:"2

The writ of habeas corpus is that legal process which is employed for the summary vindication of the right of personal liberty when illegally restrained.

It is along the line of this definition that I proceed to a discussion of the application of the writ respecting a single class of individuals, namely, the insane. Reverting to the historical,