Insurance Co. v. Dunn , 86 U.S. 214 ( 1874 )

  • 86 U.S. 214 (____)
    19 Wall. 214


    Supreme Court of United States.

    *221 *222 Mr. H.A. Morill, with whom were Messrs. George Hoadly and E.M. Johnson, for the plaintiff in error; Mr. W.H. Standish, contra.

    Mr. Justice SWAYNE delivered the opinion of the court.

    The case involves a question of jurisdiction arising between State courts and a Federal court, which, though not without interest, involves no difficulty in its solution.

    The administratrix sued the insurance company upon a life policy, in the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County. She recovered a verdict, and thereafter a judgment was rendered upon it. The company applied for a new trial, and gave bond pursuant to the laws of Ohio, in that behalf.[*] This had the effect of vacating the verdict and judgment as if a new trial had been granted according to the course of the common law, except that the lien of the judgment remained for the security of the plaintiff, in addition to the bond given by the defendant. In this condition of things, the company petitioned the Court of Common Pleas for the removal of the cause to the Circuit Court of the United States for that district, pursuant to the act of Congress of March 2d, 1867.[†] The requirements of the statute having been complied with, the court ordered that no further proceedings be had there in the cause, and it was removed to the Circuit Court.

    The administratrix appeared in that court and moved that the case be dismissed for want of jurisdiction. The motion was overruled. The administratrix thereupon asked leave to file an amended petition in that court. Leave was granted. The petition was filed, and is still pending there. She thereupon instituted proceedings in error in the District Court for the county to reverse the order made by the Court of Common Pleas, and a judgment of reversal was rendered. The company applied to the Supreme Court of the State for leave to file a petition in error. Leave was refused. This in effect affirmed the judgment of the District Court. A *223 second trial was thereupon had in the Common Pleas, and the administratrix recovered a second judgment. The company removed the case to the District Court of the county by a petition in error. That court affirmed the judgment The company thereupon sued out this writ of error, and the entire record in the State courts is thus brought before us for review.

    It is insisted that the company, by appearing and contesting the claim in the second trial, waived the question of jurisdiction, and was bound by the judgment. To this there are several answers.

    The company resisted the reversal of the order of removal made by the Common Pleas, and did all in its power to that end. Having failed, and being forced into a trial, it lost none of its rights by defending against the action.

    The cause was out of the Common Pleas, and in the Circuit Court. The former had jurisdiction to remit and the latter to receive it. Being in the latter, that court had jurisdiction to retain it. If there were error on the part of the Circuit Court in overruling the motion to dismiss, because the case had been improperly brought there, the remedy should have been sought in the Federal courts. The State courts were incompetent to give it. The authority of the latter was at an end until the case should be restored, if that were ever done, by the action of the former. Nothing is lost to the State courts by the application of this rule, for if they refuse improperly to permit a case to be removed, their refusal is liable to be reviewed and reversed by the Federal tribunals, and the power of paramount and final judgment rests with them.[*] The same rule of exclusion applies in favor of a State or Federal court which first gets possession of a case over which both have jurisdiction.[†]

    The conditions prescribed having been complied with, the act of Congress expressly required the State court where it was originally pending, "to proceed no further in the suit." *224 The further proceedings of the Common Pleas was a clear case of usurped jurisdiction. The illegality was gross. The action of the District and Supreme Court of the State gave them no validity. The maxim, that consent cannot give jurisdiction, applied with full force. Gordon v. Longest[*] is exactly in point and conclusive.

    This brings us to the cardinal inquiry in the case. It is maintained by the counsel for the administratrix, that the order of removal by the Common Pleas was erroneously made, the first verdict and judgment being "final" within the meaning of the act of Congress and the laws of Ohio. If the point be well taken the judgment must be affirmed. Otherwise it must be reversed.

    It is not denied that the requirements of the act of Congress were fully complied with. No question is raised upon that subject. The proposition involves the construction and effect of the act, and of the laws of Ohio under which the transfer was made. The act declares that the petition may be filed "at any time before the final hearing or trial of the suit." It is contended that the qualifying adjective final applies to the term "hearing" and not to "trial," and that any trial, whether final or not, is conclusive against the petitioner. This is too narrow a view. It is contrary to the grammatical construction and the obvious import of the words. The repetition of final before trial would have been tautology. To produce such a result as that contended for, the indefinite article should have been placed before the word "trial," so that the language would have been, — before the final hearing or a trial. This would doubtless have been done if such had been the intent of the act. The statute is remedial, and must be construed liberally. There is no reason for interpolating this limitation. The adjective must be taken distributively and applied as well to the second as to the first term, and to both alike. The test is whether the *225 hearing or the trial is the final one in the cause. It would be a strange anomaly if in equity and admiralty cases a final hearing only, could take away the right of removal, while any trial, however interlocutory in its character, should have the same effect in an action at law. This would be in conflict alike with the letter, the spirit, and the meaning of the act, and would largely defeat the purpose of its enactment. It was intended to permit the removal at any time before a hearing or trial, final in the cause as it stood, when the application for the transfer was made.

    The proposition that the first judgment of the Common Pleas was final within the meaning of the laws of Ohio cannot be maintained. To say that there can be two final judgments upon the same pleadings, in the same cause, in the same court, and for exactly the same things, as the results of two successive trials, involves a solecism. If the first judgment was not final the first trial could not have been so. When the demand for a new trial was made, and the requisite bond was given and approved, the case stood upon the docket in all respects as if a new trial had been granted for some error or defect in the former trial, irrespective of the laws in question, and as if no previous trial had taken place. It is true that the lien of the judgment was preserved, but that was an incident remaining after the principal thing had been put an end to. It was like the bond, for the security of the plaintiff, and for no other purpose. The former affects the question of the finality of the first trial no more than the latter. The law of Ohio declares that the bond shall be "conditioned to the effect, that the party obtaining such second trial shall abide and perform the order and judgment of the court, and pay all money, costs, and damages which may be awarded against him, consequent upon such second trial." The proceeding is thus designated and regarded as a "second trial." The judgment following — unless reversed or set aside — is the one to be satisfied, and it must necessarily be the final, and the only final one. The same remarks as to finality apply to the trial which preceded it.

    *226 In the act of Congress of 1866,[*] the language used in this connection is, "at any time before the trial or final hearing." If the difference in the act of 1867 be material, it is fair to presume that the change was deliberately made to obviate doubts that might possibly have arisen under the former act and to make the latter more comprehensive.

    The fact that, under our construction, a case which has made progress, however far, if it has not passed the final trial, is liable to be removed, has little weight as an adverse argument. Under the Judiciary Act of 1789, cases that have reached their termination in the highest courts of the States, may be brought here by a writ of error for review, and the practice in conformity to that section has been constant from the organization of this court down to the present time. If the act be unwise, the remedy lies with the legislature and not the judicial department of the government.

    Of the constitutionality of this act we entertain no doubt. The question is not an open one in this court. A few remarks will be sufficient to dispose of the subject. The third article of the Constitution declares that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as Congress may from time to time establish, and that it shall extend, among other things, to "controversies" "between citizens of different States." As regards the inferior courts authorized to be established, Congress may give them such jurisdiction, both original and appellate, within the limits of the Constitution, as it may see fit to confer. How their appellate jurisdiction shall be exercised, is not declared. The whole subject is remitted to the unfettered discretion of Congress. It may be applied to any other inferior Federal court, and to any State court where a case is presented which, by reason of the character of the parties or a question involved, falls within the scope of such judicial cognizance. Courts of the States and those of the nation are alike within its sphere, and its exercise may be authorized before or after judgment in the tribunals over which it is extended.

    *227 This act is confined to controversies between citizens of different States, and the power given to the Circuit Court is appellate. The jurisdiction involves the same principle, and rests upon the same foundation with that conferred by the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789. The constitutionality of that provision has been uniformly sustained by the unanimous judgment of this court, whenever the subject has been presented for adjudication. The twelfth section of the act of 1789, and the third section of the act of the 2d of March, 1833, relating to revenue officers, present the same question. We are not aware that a doubt of the validity of either has ever been expressed by any Federal court. The acquiescence is now universal. The subject was elaborately examined in Martin v. Hunter.[*]

    The seventh amendment to the Constitution, touching the re-examination in the courts of the United States of facts which have been tried by a jury, has no application to this case, because the first judgment had been vacated, the first verdict set aside, and a new trial granted, as before stated, when the cause was removed to the Circuit Court.

    The judgment of affirmance by the District Court and the judgment affirmed are REVERSED, and the District Court and the Court of Common Pleas will be directed to



    [*] Swan & Critchfield's Revised Statutes, 1155.

    [†] 14 Stat. at Large, 558.

    [*] Gordon v. Longest, 16 Peters, 97.

    [†] Hagan v. Lucas, 10 Id. 400; Taylor v. Carryl, 20 Howard, 583.

    [*] 16 Peters, 97; see also Stevens & Dwight v. Phœnix Insurance Co., 41 New York, 149; Kanouse v. Martin, 14 Howard, 23; Same v. Same, 15 Id 198; Hadley et al. v. Dunlap et al., 10 Ohio State, 1.

    [*] 14 Stat. at Large, 307.

    [*] 1 Wheaton, 333; see also The Mayor v. Cooper, 6 Wallace, 247.