Louisville Trust Co. v. Knott , 191 U.S. 225 ( 1903 )

  • 191 U.S. 225 (1903)


    No 389.

    Supreme Court of United States.

    Submitted October 13, 1903.
    Decided November 30, 1903.

    *230 Mr. John L. Dodd, Mr. David W. Baird, Mr. J.C. Dodd, Mr. Aaron Kohn and Mr. T.W. Spindle for appellant.

    Mr. Alexander P. Humphrey and Mr. James P. Helm for appellee.

    *231 MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

    We are of opinion that the judgment of the Circuit Court dismissing the intervening petition of the Louisville Trust Company is not subject to review here upon direct appeal or writ of error to that court.

    *232 By the Judiciary Act of March 3d, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826, an appeal or a writ of error, as the one or the other mode may be proper, can be taken directly from a Circuit Court to this court in certain specified cases, among which is "any case in which the jurisdiction of the court is in issue;" and "in such cases the question of jurisdiction alone shall be certified to the Supreme Court from the court below for decision." § 5. In all cases, other than those specified in section five of that act, the Circuit Court of Appeals is given appellate jurisdiction. § 6.

    The question presented by the certificate of the Circuit Court is not one of jurisdiction, within the meaning of the fifth section of the act of 1891, and the jurisdiction of that court was not "in issue."There was diversity in the citizenship of the parties to this suit, instituted by Stuart R. Knott as a citizen of Missouri, and no question was raised, or could have been raised, as to the authority of the Circuit Court, as a Federal court, to take cognizance of it. The issue made by the intervening petition of the Louisville Trust Company did not involve the jurisdiction of that court, as a Federal tribunal, to appoint a receiver of the assets and property of the Evening Post Company. What the Circuit Court did in that respect was questioned by the Trust Company, on behalf of the state court, solely upon the ground that the taking by the Federal court of possession of the property and assets of the Post Company — after the state court by the institution of the Haldeman suit had acquired authority to appoint a receiver of such property and assets for administration — was in violation of the rule recognized in courts of equity, whether of Federal or state origin, that "where the jurisdiction of a court, and the right of a plaintiff to prosecute his suit in it, have once attached, that right cannot be arrested or taken away by proceedings in another court;" that, as the object of the suit in the state court could not be accomplished without possession of the property and assets of the Post Company, the seizure of such property and assets under the order of the Federal court, whereby the state court was prevented from giving any *233 effectual relief to the parties before it, was inconsistent with the relations which, upon principles of comity and right, always exist between courts having concurrent jurisdiction over the same subject matter. Peck v. Jenness, 7 How. 612, 624; Taylor v. Carryl, 20 How. 583, 596.

    In all this there was nothing involving the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court as a Federal tribunal, whose jurisdiction is regulated by acts of Congress. The question of jurisdiction which the statute permits to be certified to this court directly must be one involving the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court as a Federal court, and not simply its general authority as a judicial tribunal to proceed in harmony with established rules of practice governing courts of concurrent jurisdiction as between each other.

    We think this question was substantially so determined in Smith v. McKay, 161 U.S. 355, 357. That was a suit in equity for an injunction to restrain the defendants from using certain patented machines until they had fully paid the fees they had agreed to pay to the patentee. The defendants moved to dismiss the bill upon the ground that there was a plain, adequate, and complete remedy at law — thus raising only a question of equity jurisdiction. The motion to dismiss was denied. After final decree for the plaintiff, the case was brought directly to this court by appeal, and it was assigned for error that the Circuit Court erred in not dismissing the suit for want of jurisdiction. The position of the appellee in that case was that only questions of Federal jurisdiction could be brought directly here; and that if the Circuit Court had jurisdiction of the parties and of the matters in dispute, the fact that the remedy of the plaintiff was at law, rather than in equity, raised no question of jurisdiction within the meaning of the fifth section of the Judiciary Act of March 3d, 1901, under which the appeal was taken.

    The court observed that the question had never been directly decided by it, but that it arose in the World's Columbian Exposition case, 18 U.S. App. 42, in which the Circuit Court *234 sitting in equity granted an injunction to prevent the opening of the Exposition Grounds to the public on Sunday. That case was taken by appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a motion was there made to dismiss the appeal. Chief Justice Fuller, speaking for that court, said: "The appellees have submitted a motion to dismiss the appeal upon the grounds that the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court was in issue; that the case involved the construction or application of the Constitution of the United States; that the constitutionality of laws of the United States was drawn in question therein; that therefore the appeal from a final decree would lie to the Supreme Court of the United States, and not to this court; and hence that this appeal, which is from an interlocutory order, cannot be maintained under the seventh section of the Judiciary Act of March 3d, 1891. We do not understand that the power of the Circuit Court to hear and determine the cause was denied, but that the appellants contended that the United States had not, by their bill, made a case properly cognizable in a court of equity. The objection was the want of equity, and not the want of power. The jurisdiction of the Circuit Court was, therefore, not in issue within the intent and meaning of the act."

    Referring to these observations of the Chief Justice, this court in Smith v. McKay said: "We regard this as a sound exposition of the law, and applied to the case now in hand, it demands a dismissal of the appeal, on the ground that the objection was not to the want of power in the Circuit Court to entertain the suit, but to the want of equity in the complainant's bill. The appellant's contention in this respect would require us to entertain an appeal from the Circuit Court in every case in equity, in which the defendant should choose to file a demurrer to the bill on the ground that there was a remedy at law. When the requisite citizenship of the parties appears, and the subject matter is such that the Circuit Court is competent to deal with it, the jurisdiction of that court attaches, and whether the court should sustain the complainant's *235 prayer for equitable relief, or should dismiss the bill with leave to bring an action at law, either would be a valid exercise of jurisdiction. If any error were committed in the exercise of such jurisdiction, it could only be remedied by an appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals." 161 U.S. 355, 358.

    In principle, the judgment in Smith v. McKay embraces the present case. The issue presented by the intervening petition did not raise any question under the Constitution or statutes of the United States, and depended only upon principles of general law applicable to all courts having concurrent jurisdiction over the same subject matter. We repeat that the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court was not and is not questioned for want of power in that court, as a Federal tribunal, to take possession of the assets and property of the Post Company; only its authority, upon principles of equity and comity, to do that of which complaint was made by the Louisville Trust Company. We do not think that Congress intended that any such question should be the basis of a direct appeal to this court from a Circuit Court.

    The question again arose in Blythe v. Hinckley, 173 U.S. 501, 506, where this court said: "Appeals or writs of error may be taken directly from the Circuit Courts to this court in cases in which the jurisdiction of those courts is in issue, that is, their jurisdiction as Federal Courts, the question alone of jurisdiction being certified to this court. The Circuit Court held that the remedy was at law and not in equity. That conclusion was not a decision that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction as a court of the United States. Smith v. McKay, 161 U.S. 355; Blythe Co. v. Blythe, 172 U.S. 644. The Circuit Court dismissed the bills on another ground, namely, that the judgments of the state courts could not be reviewed by that court on the reasons put forward. This, also, was not in itself a decision of want of jurisdiction because the Circuit Court was a Federal court, but a decision that the Circuit Court was unable to grant relief because of the judgments rendered by those other courts. If we were to take jurisdiction *236 on this certificate, we could only determine whether the Circuit Court had jurisdiction as a court of the United States, and as the decree rested on no denial of its jurisdiction as such, but was rendered in the exercise of that jurisdiction, it is obvious that this appeal cannot be maintained in that aspect."

    It is proper to observe that this court in Shields v. Coleman, 157 U.S. 168, 177, assumed jurisdiction upon direct appeal from a Circuit Court in a case involving the question whether that court had authority to appoint a receiver of property which was at the time in the possession of a receiver appointed by a state court. As the Federal court had, in that case, taken property out of the physical possession of a receiver of the state court, this court expressed its views upon the question whether the possession of the state court should have been disturbed by the Federal court, and it rendered judgment accordingly. But the precise question here presented as to the jurisdiction of this court under the act of 1891, on direct appeal from the Circuit Court, was not there raised or considered. In United States v. More, 3 Cr. 159, 172 (1805), it was held that this court was without jurisdiction, under the law as it then was, to review the final judgment of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia in a criminal case. It was suggested at the bar, in that case, that this court had, in a previous case, exercised appellate jurisdiction in a criminal case. Chief Justice Marshall met that suggestion by saying: "No question was made in that case as to the jurisdiction. It passed sub silentio, and the court does not consider itself as bound by that case." To the same effect, substantially, are United States v. Sanges, 144 U.S. 310, 319, and Cross v. Burke, 146 U.S. 82.

    In the circumstances of the present case, and to avoid misapprehension in the future, we deem it our duty distinctly to declare the true meaning of the word jurisdiction as used in the fifth section of the Judiciary Act of 1891.

    For the reasons stated, the appeal from the Circuit Court must be dismissed for want of jurisdiction in this court.

    It is so ordered.

Document Info

DocketNumber: 389

Citation Numbers: 191 U.S. 225, 24 S. Ct. 119, 48 L. Ed. 159, 1903 U.S. LEXIS 1446

Judges: Harlan, After Making the Foregoing Statement

Filed Date: 11/30/1903

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/15/2017

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