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Cases citing this case: Supreme Court
Cases citing this case: Circuit Courts

U.S. Supreme Court


192 U.S. 371

No. 141.

Argued January 22, 25, 1904.
Decided February 23, 1904.

[192 U.S. 371, 372]   This action was originally brought in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Minnesota by the German State Bank of Harvey, North Dakota, for which the Bankers' Mutual Casualty Company of Iowa was subsequently substituted as plaintiff, against the Minneapolis, St. Paul, & Sault Sainte Marie Railway Company of Minnesota. The averments gave jurisdiction on the ground of diversity of citizenship. A demurrer to the original complaint was sustained for reasons stated by Lochren, J. (113 Fed. 417.) Thereupon 'an amended and substituted complaint' was filed, and on demurrer judgment was rendered in favor of defendant, and affirmed on error by the circuit court of appeals for the eighth circuit. (54 C. C. A. 608, 117 Fed. 434.) This writ of error was then allowed.

The amended complaint was as follows:

[Then followed averments of payment to the German State Bank by the casualty company under its policy of insurance; of demand on defendant for repayment, and refusal; of subrogation and assignment; and prayer for judgment.]

Messrs. A. U. Quint, George W. Bowen, Horatio F. Dale, and William Connor for plaintiff in error. [192 U.S. 371, 379]   Mr. Alfred H. Bright for defendant in error.

Statement by Mr. Chief Justice Fuller: [192 U.S. 371, 380]  

Mr. Chief Justice Fuller delivered the opinion of the court:

If the jurisdiction of the circuit court depended entirely on diversity of citizenship, the judgment of the circuit court of appeals was made final by the act of March 3, 1891 [26 Stat. at L. 828, chap. 517, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 550], and this writ of error must be dismissed. But it is contended that jurisdiction also rested on the ground that the case arose under [192 U.S. 371, 381]   the Constitution or laws of the United States, and that must be tested by the settled rule that a suit does not so arise unless it really and substantially involves a dispute or controversy as to the effect or construction of the Constitution or some law or treaty of the United States, upon the determination of which the result depends, and which appears on the record by plaintiff's own statement of his case in legal and logical form, such as is required in good pleading. Tennessee v. Union & Planters' Bank, 152 U.S. 454 , 38 L. ed. 511, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 654; Arbuckle v. Blackburn, 191 U.S. 405 , ante, p. 148, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 148; Defiance Water Co. v. Defiance, 191 U.S. 184 , ante, p. 63, 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 63; Little York Gold-Washing & Water Co. v. Keyes, 96 U.S. 199 , 24 L. ed. 656; Starin v. New York, 115 U.S. 248 , 29 L. ed. 388, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 28.

The amended complaint alleged that defendant was engaged in carrying the mails by virtue of the laws and postal regulations of the United States; that a registered package of currency was deposited in the mails, delivered to the mail clerk on the proper mail car belonging to defendant, duly enclosed with other mail matter in a securely locked mail sack, and transported by defendant to its station at Harvey; that the mail clerk, between eleven and twelve o'clock at night, delivered the mail sack, duly locked and containing the registered package of currency, to the night station agent of defendant at the town of Harvey, who was duly authorized by defendant to receive and take charge of all mail matter received there on defendant's railway, neither defendant nor the station agent having taken the oath as officials or employees of the Postoffice Department; and it was then averred:

And further, that defendant's road master entered the depot, unlocked the mail bag with a key he had unlawfully caused to be made, abstracted the package of currency, and converted its contents; that the room where the mail bag was placed was 'not designed or capable of safely keeping valuable articles or property,' and that it was through the negligence of defendant and its station agent that the man gained entrance to the room and obtained access to the mail bag.

It will be perceived that plaintiff relied on principles of general law applicable to negligence, and to the liability of defendant if there were negligence, and nowhere asserted a right which might be defeated or the Constitution or of any law of the United the Constitutionor of any law of the United States. The complaint did indeed deny that there was any contract between defendant and the government, but that was merely a conclusion of law, inconsistent with the statutes and with the facts alleged. And whether the duty counted on was imposed by law, or arose from contract, the question remained whether defendant was a public agent of the United [192 U.S. 371, 383]   States and the consequences of that relation, and the construction of no provision of the Constitution or of any law of the United States on which the recovery depended was put in controversy.

In other words, no definite issue in respect of a right claimed under the Constitution or any law of the United States was deducible from plaintiff's statement of its case, and if the postal regulations could, under circumstances, be regarded as laws of the United States creating a right which might be denied or secured according to one construction or another, it did not appear that the construction of the extract from 713 of those regulations was in any way in dispute, or could have been. And the averments of the complaint cannot be helped out by resort to the other pleadings or to judicial knowledge. Mountain View Min. & Mill. Co. v. McFadden, 180 U.S. 533 , 45 L. ed. 656, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 488; Arkansas v. Kansas & T. Coal Co. 183 U.S. 185 , 46 L. ed. 144, 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 47.

The Constitution empowers Congress to establish postoffices and post roads, and Congress has passed laws accordingly, pursuant to which defendant was carrying the mails. But the alleged cause of action was not referable to those laws or put on the ground that defendant was an officer or public agent of the United States. That was matter of defense and could not be and was not resorted to by plaintiff to obtain jurisdiction. Tennessee v. Union & Planters' Bank, 152 U.S. 454 , 38 L. ed. 511, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 654.

A writ of error to the judgment of a state court stands on different ground. Such was Teal v. Felton, 12 How. 284, 13 L. ed. 390, in which the postmaster relied on an act of Congress in defense, and the writ was properly granted under the 25th section of the judiciary act.

Cases against United States officers as such, or on bonds given under acts of Congress, or involving interference with Federal process, or the due faith and credit to be accorded judgments, are not in point; nor does the case fall within the ruling that a corporation created by Congress has a right to invoke the jurisdiction of the Federal courts in respect to any litigation it may have except as specially restricted. The [192 U.S. 371, 384]   doctrine of Pennsylvania Railroad Removal Cases, 115 U.S. 1 , 29 L. ed. 319, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1113, cannot be extended so as to embrace cases like the present. Shoshone Mim. Co. v. Rutter, 177 U.S. 505, 509 , 44 S. L. ed. 864, 866, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 726. On the other hand, such cases as Provident Sav. Life Assur. Soc. v. Ford, 114 U.S. 635 , 29 L. ed. 261, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1104; Metcalf v. Watertown, 128 U.S. 586 , 32 L. ed. 543, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 173; Colorado Cent. Consol. Min. Co. v. Turck, 150 U.S. 138 , 37 L. ed. 1030, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 35; St. Joseph & G. I. R. Co. v. Steele, 167 U.S. 659 , 42 L. ed. 315, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 925; Pratt v. Paris Gaslight & Coke Co. 168 U.S. 259 , 42 L. ed. 460, 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 62; Western U. Teleg. Co. v. Ann Arbor R. Co. 178 U.S. 239 , 44 L. ed. 1052, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 867; Gableman v. Peoria, D. & E. R. Co. 179 U.S. 335 , 45 L. ed. 220, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 171, show that suits, though involving the Constitution or laws of the United States, are not suits arising under the Constitution or laws where they do not turn on a controversy between the parties in regard to the operation of the Constitution or laws on the facts.

In Price v. Pennsylvania R. Co. 113 U.S. 218 , 28 L. ed. 980, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 427, which was a writ of error to the supreme court of Pennsylvania, the question arose whether a railway mail clerk was a passenger within a certain statute of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Justice Miller, delivering the opinion, said:

Although that case was a writ of error to a state court, it was held, in effect, that it was too obvious for controversy that the acts of Congress referred to did not give the mail clerk any particular right as against the railroad company in respect of negligence and therefore this court declined to entertain the writ.

We repeat that the rule is settled that a case does not arise under the Constitution or laws of the United States unless it appears from plaintiff's own statement, in the outset, that some title, right, privilege, or immunity on which recover depends will be defeated by one construction of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or sustained by the opposite construction. Little York Gold-Washing & Water Co. v. Keyes, 96 U. S. [192 U.S. 371, 386]   199, 24 L. ed. 656; Starin v. New York, 115 U.S. 248 , 29 L. ed. 388, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 28; New Orleans v. Benjamin, 153 U.S. 411 , 38 L. ed. 764, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 905; Blackburn v. Portland Gold Min. Co. 175 U.S. 571 , 44 L. ed. 276, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 222; Shoshone Min. Co. v. Rutter, 177 U.S. 505 , 44 L. ed. 864, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 726.

Tested by this rule, the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court depended entirely on diversity of citizenship, and not in any degree on grounds making the case one arising under the Constitution,' laws, or treaties of the United States.

Writ of error dismissed.

Mr. Justice White dissented.

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