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CHASE MANHATTAN BANK (NATIONAL ASSOCIATION) v. SOUTH ACRES DEVELOPMENT CO.
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Decided January 9, 1978
The District Court of Guam held not authorized to exercise federal diversity jurisdiction.
The issue in this case is whether Congress has authorized the District Court of Guam to exercise federal diversity jurisdiction. Respondent brought suit in the Guam District Court, claiming that the court had jurisdiction over its action on the basis of diverse citizenship. The court agreed, denied petitioner's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. 1 Mailloux v. Mailloux, 417 F. Supp. 11 (1975), and a divided Court of Appeals affirmed. 554 F.2d 976 (CA9 1977). Because Congress has neither explicitly nor implicitly granted diversity jurisdiction to the District Court of Guam, we reverse.
As part of the Organic Act of Guam, Congress created the District Court of Guam. 64 Stat. 389, 48 U.S.C. 1424 (a). [434 U.S. 236, 237] The District Court was established "under Art. IV, 3, of the Federal Constitution rather than under Art. III," Guam v. Olsen, 431 U.S. 195, 196 -197, n. 1 (1977), 2 and Congress provided that the District Court would have the following jurisdiction:
We also reject the notion that Congress, by extending the Privileges and Immunities Clauses of the Federal Constitution to Guam, 48 U.S.C. 1421b (u), intended and implicitly authorized the Guam District Court to exercise federal diversity jurisdiction. 554 F.2d, at 977. This Court has never held that the Privileges and Immunities Clauses prohibit Congress from withholding or restricting diversity jurisdiction, 4 [434 U.S. 236, 239] and there is nothing in the legislative history of 1421b (u) to suggest that Congress intended that provision to have any effect on the Guam District Court's original jurisdiction. 5 Without support in the language or legislative history of the section, it is simply untenable to interpret 1421b (u) either as conferring diversity jurisdiction by its own terms or as impliedly expanding the grant of original jurisdiction contained in 1424 (a).
We recognize that Congress' jurisdictional grant to the District Court of Guam is unique. All other federal district courts in the States and Territories exercise either diversity jurisdiction or concurrent original jurisdiction over many local causes of action. See 554 F.2d, at 984 n. 18 (Sneed, J., dissenting). Whether or not this peculiar treatment of the Guam District Court is preferable or even wise, however, we are constrained by the principle that federal courts are courts [434 U.S. 236, 240] of limited jurisdiction. Where, as here, Congress has clearly established appropriate limitations on the District Court's original jurisdiction, we are compelled to respect those limits.
The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, and the decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed.
[ Footnote 2 ] We are, therefore, not faced with the question of what jurisdictional limits Congress may place upon federal district courts established under Art. III. Congress' broad power over Territories under Art. IV is, of course, well established. See, e. g., Binns v. United States, 194 U.S. 486 (1904).
[ Footnote 3 ] Court Reorganization Act of 1974, Guam Pub. L. 12-85, 55. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that the jurisdiction of the local court under the Court Reorganization Act is exclusive and not concurrent with the Guam District Court. Agana Bay Dev. Co. (Hong Kong) v. Supreme Court of Guam, 529 F.2d 952, 955 n. 4 (1976). As [434 U.S. 236, 238] in Guam v. Olsen, 431 U.S., at 197 n. 3, that holding is not at issue in this case.
[ Footnote 4 ] Indeed. we have never held that the Privileges and Immunities Clauses of Art. IV, 2, cl. 1, and the Fourteenth Amendment restrict congressional - as opposed to state - action.
[ Footnote 5 ] In fact, the legislative history of 1421b (u) reveals that Congress' intent in extending the Privileges and Immunities Clauses to Guam was "to limit the power of the territorial legislature rather than affect the jurisdiction of the district court. . . ." 554 F.2d, at 984 n. 17 (Sneed, J., dissenting). There is limited support in the legislative history for the view that Congress was also concerned with the ability of citizens "to appeal in proper cases to the national courts . . . ." S. Rep. No. 216, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 12 (1967) (letter of Feb. 19, 1967, from Assistant Secretary of Interior Harry R. Anderson to Senator Henry M. Jackson, Chairman of Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs) (emphasis added); see also H. R. Rep. No. 1521, 90th Cong., 2d Sess., 14 (1968). It is doubtful that this one statement could serve as a sufficient basis for concluding that Congress impliedly amended its jurisdictional grant to the Guam District Court through the oblique mechanism of the Privileges and Immunities Clauses. But even if it could, the jurisdictional grant at issue here does not deny Guam litigants "access to Art. III courts for appellate review of local-court decisions . . . ." Guam v. Olsen, 431 U.S., at 204 . Only the limitation on the District Court's original jurisdiction under the first clause of 1424 (a), as quoted supra, is at issue here, and there is nothing in the legislative history of 1421b (u) to suggest that Congress intended to alter the plain language of that jurisdictional grant. [434 U.S. 236, 241]