Empire State-Idaho Mining & Developing Co. v. Hanley , 205 U.S. 225 ( 1907 )


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  • 205 U.S. 225 (1907)

    EMPIRE STATE-IDAHO MINING AND DEVELOPING COMPANY
    v.
    HANLEY.

    No. 206.

    Supreme Court of United States.

    Argued February 1, 1907.
    Decided March 25, 1907.
    APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO.

    *231 Mr. George Turner, with whom Mr. F.T. Post was on the brief, for appellant.

    Mr. Myron A. Folsom for appellee.

    MR. JUSTICE DAY, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

    In the brief and argument of the learned counsel for the plaintiff in error it is said: "The sole question in the case is whether, on the facts set up and pleaded in the answer, there was jurisdiction in the United States Circuit Court in the former suit to render the judgment quieting in the complainant Hanley title to one-eighth of all the ore bodies found within the boundaries of the Skookum mining claim. The lower court thought the answer failed to show want of jurisdiction and sustained complainant's exceptions."

    A preliminary question for examination in this court, although not made in argument by counsel, is whether this court has jurisdiction of this case by direct appeal from the judgment rendered in the Circuit Court of Idaho. It is apparent from the statement preceding this opinion that the extent and effect of the adjudication in the first case, wherein the complainant alleges title was decreed to him, was the real controversy between the parties. The complainant contended *232 that the court in the former case had adjudicated title to all of the ore bodies found within the boundaries of the "Skookum claim." The defendants contended that the ore bodies in controversy belonged to another mine, the San Carlos, the property of the defendants, by reason of the fact that they are of a vein which has its apex in the San Carlos mining claim and not in the Skookum; and that the decree in the former suit was without jurisdiction in so far as it undertook to quiet title for such ore bodies, because the pleadings in that suit made no case for such decree.

    If this case can come here by direct appeal, it must be because it is within section 5 of the Court of Appeals Act, 1891, providing for direct appeals in certain cases from the Circuit Court to this court. Sec. 5, 29 U.S. Stat. 492. It cannot be brought directly here as a case in which the jurisdiction of the court is in issue; for the jurisdiction challenged is not that of the court rendering the decree from which this appeal is taken, but is that of the court rendering the former decree, which is set up in the complaint as the basis of the title sued upon. In re Lennon, 150 U.S. 393.

    If the case is properly here, it must be because it is one which involves the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States. It has been repeatedly held that it is only when the Constitution of the United States is directly and necessarily drawn in question that such an appeal can be taken, and the case must be one in which the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States is involved as controlling. We think this case is not of that character. It is evident that the real issue as to the former judgment was whether it was res judicata between the parties, or, as contended by the plaintiff in error, rendered without jurisdiction. The court in deciding against the plaintiff in error decided that the court had jurisdiction and that the former decree was conclusive. This decision does not necessarily and directly involve the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States.

    *233 In World's Columbian Exposition v. United States, 56 Fed. Rep. 654, 657, Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, speaking for the court, said: "Cases in which the construction or application of the Constitution is involved, or the constitutionality of any law of the United States is drawn in question, are cases which present an issue upon such construction or application or constitutionality, the decision of which is controlling; otherwise every case arising under the laws of the United States might be said to involve the construction or application of the Constitution, or the validity of such laws."

    In re Lennon, 150 U.S. supra, was a proceeding in habeas corpus to discharge a party held upon an order for imprisonment for failing to pay a fine imposed for contempt. The petitioner alleged that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case in which the order of injunction had been issued, for violation of which the petitioner was alleged to be guilty of contempt; and that it had no jurisdiction either of the subject-matter or of the person of the petitioner. The application being denied and direct appeal being taken to this court, it was held that it would not lie under section 5, Act of March 3, 1891, because the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court of the petition for habeas corpus was not in issue, nor was the construction or application of the Constitution involved. Of the latter phase of the case Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, speaking for the court, said:

    "Nor can the attempt be successfully made to bring the case within the class of cases in which the construction or application of the Constitution is involved in the sense of the statute, on the contention that the petitioner was deprived of his liberty without due process of law. The petition does not proceed on any such theory, but entirely on the ground of want of jurisdiction in the prior case over the subject-matter and over the person of petitioner, in respect of inquiry into which the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court was sought. If, in the opinion of that court, the restraining order had been absolutely void, or the petitioner were not bound *234 by it, he would have been discharged, not because he would otherwise be deprived of due process, but because of the invalidity of the proceedings for want of jurisdiction. The opinion of the Circuit Court was that jurisdiction in the prior suit and proceedings existed, and the discharge was refused, but an appeal from that judgment directly to this court would not, therefore, lie on the ground that the application of the Constitution was involved as a consequence of an alleged erroneous determination of the questions actually put in issue by the petitioner."

    In Carey v. Houston & Texas Central R.R. Co., 150 U.S. 170, in which a bill in equity had been filed in order to impeach and set aside a decree of foreclosure on the ground of fraud and want of jurisdiction in the foreclosure suit, it was held that no case for appeal directly to this court was made as one that involved the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States. In that case Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, delivering the opinion of the court, said:

    "It is argued that the record shows that complainants had been deprived of their property without due process of law, by means of the decree attacked, but because the bill alleged irregularities, errors and jurisdictional defects in the foreclosure proceedings and fraud in respect thereof and in the subsequent transactions, which might have enabled the railroad company upon a direct appeal to have avoided the decree of sale, or which, if sustained on this bill, might have justified the Circuit Court in setting aside that decree, it does not follow that the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States was involved in the case in the sense of the statute. In passing upon the validity of that decree the Circuit Court decided no question of the construction or application of the Constitution, and, as we have said, no such question was raised for its consideration. Our conclusion is that the motion to dismiss the appeal must be sustained."

    The cases cited were followed and the principles deducible *235 therefrom applied in Cosmopolitan Mining Company v. Walsh, 193 U.S. 460. In that case it was contended, in a replication to an answer setting up certain former judgments rendered against the complainant as a bar to the suit brought by it to recover possession of the real property sold under the judgments, that they were awarded without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. And this was upon the theory that the service of process in the state courts upon the corporation's agent in the suits where the judgments were rendered was unauthorized by the laws of the State or the general principles of law. It was held that the case was not one directly involving the construction or application of the Federal Constitution within the meaning of section 5 of the Act of March 3, 1891, and the writ of error was dismissed.

    We think the principles involved in these cases decisive against jurisdiction in this court of this appeal. It is true that it is averred in the sixth paragraph of the amended answer above set forth that in the action to determine title to the ore bodies the mining company had the right under the laws and Constitution of the United States to a trial by jury, of which it was deprived; and that so much of the decree as undertook to quiet title to the ore bodies was rendered without jurisdiction, because the same constituted and was in fact an attempt to deprive the defendant of its property without due process of law in violation of the Federal Constitution. But these averments of conclusions as to constitutional rights do not change the real character of the controversy and make it a case in which the controlling rule of decision involves the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States.

    The thing relied upon in this case was the controlling effect as res judicata of a decree rendered between the parties in another suit. And the real issue was as to the jurisdiction of the court to render the decree. The determination of that question did not involve the construction or application of *236 the Constitution of the United States. The Circuit Court held that the court rendering the first decree had jurisdiction to determine the ownership of the ore bodies underneath the surface of the Skookum claim. The court thus really decided a question of res judicata between the parties upon general principles of law. And it does not convert the decision into one involving the construction and application of the Constitution of the United States to aver, argumentatively, that to give such effect to a former adjudication under the circumstances amounts to depriving a party of due process of law.

    We are of opinion therefore that the case does not come within the fifth section of the Circuit Court of Appeals Act as one directly appealable to this court.

    The writ of error is dismissed for want of jurisdiction in this court.