James M. Davis (defendant) was a federal revenue official whose duty it was to seize illegal distilleries and the apparatuses used in the illegal distillation of spirits. In carrying out his job duties, Davis allegedly was assaulted and fired upon by a number of armed men. Davis claimed he returned fire in defense of his life. Davis was indicted for murder by the State of Tennessee (plaintiff) in state court. Prior to trial, Davis filed a petition for removal from state court in the United States Circuit Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Davis cited § 643 of the Revised Statutes, governing revenue law of the United States, as the basis for removal. That statute directed that any civil or criminal action brought against a federal revenue officer in state court for acts done under color of the law could be removed to federal court. The circuit court judges were divided on the issue and certified to the United States Supreme Court the question of whether removal was proper.