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160 U.S. 77
WASHINGTON & I. R. CO.
COEUR D'ALENE RY. & NAV. CO. et al.
December 2, 1895. [160 U.S. 77, 78] On May 15, 1889, the Washington & Idaho Railroad Company, describing itself as a corporation duly organized under the laws of Washington territory, brought an action of ejectment in the district court of the First judicial district of the territory of Idaho against the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, as a corporation duly organized under the laws of Montana territory, and the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, as a corporation duly organized under the laws of the United States. The complainant alleged that on the 10th day of July, 1887, the plaintiff was lawfully possessed, as owner in fee simple, of a certain tract of land situated in Shoshone county, Idaho T., being the right of way of plaintiff's railroad, consisting of a strip of land 200 feet in width and about 4,000 feet in length; that the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, on the 1st day of August, 1887, entered into possession of the demanded premises, and ousted and ejected the plaintiff therefrom; that the defendant the Northern Pacific Railroad Company claimed to be in possession of said premises as a tenant of the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, and was actually in the possession of said premises at the time of the institution of the suit; that the value of the rents, issues, and profits of the said premises while the plaintiff was excluded therefrom is $5,000; that the plaintiff was still the owner in fee simple, and entitled to the possession of said premises; and plaintiff demanded judgment against the said defendants for the possession of the demanded premises, and for the sum of $6,000 as damages.
A writ of summons against the defendants was sued out, [160 U.S. 77, 79] and on the 27th day of May, 1889, was returned as served on the said defendants by the delivery of a copy thereof to their authorized agent. On May 31, 1889, the separate answer of the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company was filed, denying the plaintiff's title, and claiming that defendant had, in good faith, and without any knowledge that the plaintiff claimed any interest therein, entered into possession of the described land, and, in the belief that it was the owner thereof, had constructed thereon its railroad and its depot, at an expense exceeding $7, 000; that the plaintiff knew that the defendant was constructing its railroad and depot as aforesaid, and permitted the same to be done without making any claim to said premises, wherefore defendant claimed judgment that the plaintiff should take nothing by the action, that the plaintiff should be declared to be estopped from claiming title to said premises, and that the defendant should have such other and further relief as should be just and equitable.
On the 3d day of July, 1890, by virtue of an act of congress of that date, the said territory of Idaho became a state; and on August 27, 1890, the defendants filed a petition in the district court of the First judicial district of the state of Idaho, praying for the removal of said case to the circuit court of the United States, Ninth circuit, in and for the district of Idaho; and the case was so proceeded in that on December 6, 1892, a final judgment was entered, adjudging that the plaintiff, the Washington & Idaho Railroad Company, should take nothing by the action, and that the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company should have judgment against the said plaintiff for its costs.
The trial in the circuit court was by the court, a jury having been waived by both parties. The court made the following findings of fact:
The case was taken, by a writ of error, to the circuit court of appeals for the Ninth circuit, where the judgment of the circuit court was, on February 12, 1894, affirmed. 9 C. C. A. 303, 60 Fed. 981. On February 4, 1895, by a writ of error of that date, the case was brought to this court.
A. A. Hoehling, Jr., and Samuel Shellabarger, for appellant.
[160 U.S. 77, 90] A. B. Brown, for appellees.
Mr. Justice SHIRAS, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.
We are to answer the questions that arise on this record in the light of the findings of fact made by the circuit court to which no exceptions were taken.
Those questions are two: First, had the circuit court jurisdiction to entertain the action? And, if so, second, did the title set up by the plaintiff company show a right of possession of the land in dispute as against the title of the defendants?
It is claimed by the plaintiff in error that as, at the time when the action was originally brought in the district court of the territory of Idaho, the Washington & Idaho Railroad Company, the plaintiff, was a corporation organized under the laws of Washington territory, and the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, defendant, was a corporation organized under the laws of Montana territory; and, as the Northern Pacific Railroad Company was not really a party to the action, there was no right to remove the cause from the state court, whose jurisdiction over the case had attached under the terms of the act of July 3, 1890, providing for the admission of Idaho into the Union. The argument is based on the language of the eighteenth section of that act, wherein it is provided that 'in respect to all cases, proceedings, and matters now pending in the supreme or district courts of the said territory at the time of the admission into the Union of the state of Idaho, and arising within the limits of such state, whereof the circuit or district courts by this act [160 U.S. 77, 91] established might have had jurisdiction under the laws of the United States had such courts existed at the time of the commencement of such cases, the said circuit and district courts, respectively, shall be the successors of said supreme and district courts of said territory; and in respect to all other cases, proceedings, and matters pending in the supreme or district courts of said territory at the time of the admission of such territory into the Union, arising within the limits of said state, the courts established by such state shall, respectively, be the successors of said supreme and district territorial courts; and all the files, records, indictments, and proceedings rolating to any such cases shall be transferred to such circuit, district, and state courts, respectively, and the same shall be proceeded with therein in due course of law; but no writ, action, indictment, cause, or proceeding now pending, or that prior to the admission of the state shall be pending, in any territorial court in said territory, shall abate by the admission of such state into the Union, but the same shall be transferred and proceeded with in the proper United States circuit, district, or state court, as the case may be: provided, however, that in all civil actions, causes, and proceedings in which the United States is not a party transfers shall not be made to the circuit and district courts of the United States, except upon written request of one of the parties to such action or proceeding filed in the proper court; and in the absence of such request such cases shall be proceeded with in the proper state courts.' 26 Stat. 215, 18.
This language is interpreted by the plaintiff in error to mean that no case can be transferred to the federal courts if the parties to it could not have gone into such courts at the time the action was brought, if such courts had then actually existed; and the contention is that, as at the time of the commencement of this action the Washington & Idaho Railroad Company was a resident, citizen, and inhabitant of the territory of Washington, and the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company was a resident, citizen, and inhabitant of the territory of Montana, no suit either by or against either of such corporations could have been removed, transferred, or [160 U.S. 77, 92] commenced in a federal court on the ground of diverse citizenship.
It should be observed that, while it is true that Montana and Washington were in a territorial condition when this suit was brought, they both had become state-the former on the 8th, the latter on the 11th, of November, 1889 (26 Stat. 1552, 1553)-before the filing of the petition for removal.
A similar question was presented in Koenigsberger v. Mining Co., 158 U.S. 41 , 15 Sup. Ct. 751. That was a case where, at the time of the bringing of the action in a district court of the territory of Dakota, the plaintiff was a citizen of such territory, and when the territory became a state under a statute in terms precisely similar to those of the statute we are now considering the cause was transferred to the circuit court of the United States; and it was there contended, as it is here, that the circuit court could not acquire jurisdiction of the case by reason of the diversity of citizenship between the parties, because at the time of the commencement of the case the plaintiff was a citizen of a territory. The subject was carefully considered, and the conclusion reached was thus expressed in the language of Mr. Justice Gray:
This view sufficiently disposes of the objection made in this case to the jurisdiction of the circuit court of the United States, so far as that jurisdiction depended on adverse citizenship.
The circuit court of appeals maintained the jurisdiction of the circuit court on the ground that there was a federal question involved in the fact that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, a corporation created by the laws of the United States, was a party to the action. We agree with that court in regarding such a fact as conferring jurisdiction on the circuit court. But it is urged that the fact did not exist; that the Northern Pacific Railroad was not a party to the action. This contention is, we think, disposed of by the record itself. That discloses that the original suit was brought against the Northern Pacific Railroad Company as well as against the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company; that the summons included both of said defendants; that the complaint alleged that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company was in actual possession of the premises in dispute as a tenant of the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company. The return of the summons alleged that service had been made upon both defendants. The petition for the removal or transfer of the case was joined in by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company; and in that petition it was not alleged that the latter company objected to the summons, or for any reason, to the jurisdiction of the court, but alleged that the controversy was between citizens of different states, and that the suit was of a civil nature arising under the laws of the United States.
Upon the face of the record as it existed at the time of the removal, consisting of the writ, the return of service, the complaint, and the petition for such removal, it was, therefore, plain tha the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, as a corporation created by the laws of the United States, was a party, both nominally and actively. It is true that the subsequent [160 U.S. 77, 94] record discloses that the circuit court, in rendering its opinion and judgment, speaks of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company as not having been served, and as not appearing in the action. But, as was well said by the circuit court of appeals, when dealing with this contention: 'It cannot be said that the Northern Pacific Railroad Company was not an actual party to the litigation. It was not only made a party, but it was a proper party. It was the party in possession of the premises sought to be recovered by the action of ejectment. ... At the time when the cause was removed, the return of service was on file, but no default had been taken against the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and no disposition had been made of the plaintiff's controversy against it. That defendant, in presenting its petition for removal to the circuit court, declared itself to be one of the defendants to the case, and recited the fact that the cause was pending in the state court, and was properly within the jurisdiction of the circuit court of the United States.'
Whatever reason, therefore, the circuit court may have had for speaking of the Northern n Pacific Railroad Company as a party not served and not appearing, it is incontrovertible, as against the record, that it was served; and, whether served or not, it entered a general appearance by joining in the petition for removal. That it may have subsequently ceased to take an active part in th case is immaterial. The jurisdictional question must be determined by the record at the time of the transfer of the case.
Whether conflicting claims of railroad companies, under the right of way act of congress of March 3, 1875, would give a circuit court of the United States jurisdiction independently of citizenship, under the doctrine of Doolan v. Carr, 125 U.S. 620 , 8 Sup. Ct. 1228, we do not find it necessary to consider.
If, then, the case fell within the jurisdiction of the circuit court, we have next to inquire whether that jurisdiction was properly exercised.
The controversy was between two railroad companies, one organized under the laws of Washington territory, the other organized under the laws of Montana territory, and was as [160 U.S. 77, 95] to the right of possession of a tract of land situated in Shoshone county, in the territory of Idaho, and over which each company claimed a right of way under the act of March 3, 1875, entitled 'An act granting to railroads a right of way through the public lands of the United States.' This act provides that 'the right of way through the public lands of the United States is hereby granted to any railroad company duly organized under the laws of any state or territory ... which shall have filed with the secretary of the interior a copy of its articles of incorporation and due proofs of its organization under the same, to the extent of one hundred feet on each side of the central line of said road.'
It was affirmatively found by the circuit court that the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, on the 6th day of July, 1886, filed its articles of incorporation in the office of the secretary of the territory of Montana, and also filed in the office of the county clerk and recorder of the county of Lewis and Clarke, in said territory, a certified copy of its said articles of incorporation; that the line of route of the railroad of the said company, as described in said articles of incorporation, passed over and included the land in controversy; that on the 20th day of July, 1886, the said company filed in the office of the secretary of the interior at Washington, D. C., a certified copy of its articles of incorporation and proofs of its organization under the laws of the territory of Montana, which certified copy of articles of incorporation and proofs of organization were duly approved on that day by the secretary of the interior; that in the summer and fall of 1886 the said company constructed its railroad over said line of railroad, as described in said articles of incorporation, from the Old Mission up the main Coeur d'Alene river to the town of Kingston, and thence up the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene river to the town of Wardner Junction, a distance of about 14 miles; that in the month of October, 1886, the said company, for the purpose of extending its line of railroad, caused a survey to be made for its said line of railroad from said Wardner Junction up the said fork of the Coeur d'Alene river, over the [160 U.S. 77, 96] line described in its said articles of incorporation, through the towns of Wallace and Mullen, and marked the center line of said road upon the ground by planting stakes at each station at 100 feet, and at such other points as there were angles in the line, so that the line of route of said road could be readily traced upon the ground; that the said surveying and marking of said line was completed on the 31st day of October, 1886; that in making said survey the engineers of said company ran three lines through said town of Wallace, called lines A, B, and C,-the two former being on the south and line C being on the north side of said river, the latter being the line upon which the railroad of said company was afterwards constructed, and upon the ground in controversy in this action; that in the summer and fall of 1887 the said company extended its road from the town of Wardner Junction over its line of survey, a point about one mile east of the town of Wallace, and over said line C, the ground in controversy, through the town of Wallace, and at all times thereafter, up to and at the time of the commencement of this action, occupied and used the same as a railroad, and for railroad purposes, and at the time of the commencement of this action had its roadbed, track, side tracks, and depot thereon, and was using the same exclesively for railroad purposes; and that at all times above mentioned the lands in controversy, and all other lands along the line of said railroad of the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company, as described in its articles of incorporation, were unsurveyed public lands of the United States.
If these facts stood unaffected by other evidence, the title of the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company to the land in controversy would be clear.
It was, however, shown that on the 9th day of November, 1886, 10 days after the completion of the survey of the three lines A, B, and C, the said company filed in the United States land office at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a map or profile, which was, December 3, 1886, approved by the secretary of the interior, and that on this map the line B through the town of Wallace was platted as the line of the said railroad. [160 U.S. 77, 97] As already stated, in the fall of 1887 the company constructed its railroad upon line C, and across the land in controversy. But no amendment of the said map was made, nor was any approval of the secretary of the interior obtained to any new map covering line C.
The plaintiff contends that the effect of the filing and approval of the map line B was to vest in the said company a right of way 100 feet wide on each side of the center line of its road, as indicated upon said map, which right could not be changed without the consent of the granting power first had and obtained. Regarding this question as one entirely between the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company and the United States, it should be observed that the act of congress, under which both parties claim the land in question, by its fourth section provides that, in case of unsurveyed lands of the United States, as these were, the plat need not be filed until 12 months after a survey thereof. It is however, said that, while the company might not have been required, under the act, to file its map at the time such filing was made, yet it had the right to do so under certain regulations of the secretary of the interior, in force during the period of this controversy; and that when such map was approved by the secretary the company had secured the benefit of the act upon the line there shown, and could not thereafter alter the same. We agree with the circuit court of appeals in thinking that, so far as the United States are concerned, there is nothing in the act forbidding a railroad company, having adopted one line of survey along the route provided for in its articles of incorporation, and having filed a plat thereof, to subsequently, and within the time allowed it by law for so doing, adopt another route; and that no reason is apparent why, instead of filing a second plat, it may not construct the road on the line surveyed and adopted, so long as the rights of others have not intervened. Such an actual construction and appropriation of one line would preclude the company from asserting any claim to the other lines, and hence the contention that, by running several lines through unsurveyed lands, the company sought to obtain more than the [160 U.S. 77, 98] statute gave, namely, one right of way, is met by the fact that it claimed and constructed but one line.
If the United States could not and do not complain, there is no foundation for the plaintiff company to do so, as it was found by the trial court that the platting of line B, instead of line C, was through a mistake, and that such mistake was not discovered until after the completion of the defendant's railroad and depot over and upon the ground in controversy; and that the filing of the plat showing line B was not done for the purpose of in any manner deceiving the plaintiff or any one else; and that the plaintiff was not in any manner misled or prejudiced by the filing of said plat or by said mistake.
Even if the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company was duly organized as a railroad company, and, as such, was entitled to construct and maintain its road over the land in controversy, without being estopped by having filed an inaccurate map, still the plaintiff contends that the right of way in question belongs to it by virtue of a prior survey made on its behalf. The facts relevant to this contention are that the articles of incorporation, under which the plaintiff claims the land in controversy, were not filed in the office of the secretary of the territory of Washington till the 10th day of November, 1886, and that a copy of such articles and proof of organization were not filed in the office of the secretary of the interior till December 22, 1886. It was, indeed, shown and found that on October 28, 1886, W. H. Burrage, claiming to be acting for the plaintiff, surveyed a line up the Coeur d'Alene river, through the town of Wallace, and over the ground in controversy, which was the line described in the articles of incorporation subsequently filed by the plaintiff company in the offices of the secretary of the territory and of the secretary of the interior.
The conclusion of the courts below on this state of facts was that at the time of the making of said survey by W. H. Burrage over the lands in controversy, on October 28, 1886, the plaintiff was not a corporation organized for the purpose of constructing, or authorized to construct, a railroad over the [160 U.S. 77, 99] land in controversy; was not authorized to take possession of the said premises, or to locate a line of railroad thereon; and that the said survey on October 28, 1886, conferred no right whatever on it, the plaintiff, as against the defendant, the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company.
The argument on behalf of the plaintiff is that when, on December 22, 1886, the Washington & Idaho Railroad Company had filed its articles of incorporation and proof of organization in the office of the secretary of interior at Washington, D. C., it had a right to adopt the survey previously made by Burrage, as and for the location of its route under the general right of way act, and that when it so adopted said survey it related back to the date when the survey was made.
We are unable to accept such a view of the law, but concur in the conclusion of the court below that the language of the act of congress, under which both parties claim, wherein it provides that 'the right of way through the public lands of the United States is hereby granted to any railroad company duly organized under the laws of any state or territory, which shall file with the secretary of the interior a copy of its articles of incorporation and due proofs of its organization under the same, to the extent of one hundred feet on each side of the central line of said road,' plainly means that no corporation can acquire a right of way upon any line not described in its charter or in its articles of incorporation; that it necessarily follows that no initiatory step can be taken to secure such right of way by the survey upon the ground or otherwise; that until the power to build the road upon the surveyed line was in a proper manner assumed by or conferred upon the plaintiff company, its acts of making surveys were of no avail; and that, so far as the conflicting rights of the parties to this controversy are concerned, the status of the plaintiff is the same as if its survey of October 28, 1886, had not been made.
The case of New Brighton & N. C. R. Co. v. Pittsburgh, Y. & C. R. Co., 105 Pa. St. 14, was, like the present, one of a contest between two railroad companies for a right of way, and where the effect of a survey of a line before the legal organization of the company had to be considered; and it was held that [160 U.S. 77, 100] surveying, locating, and designating by proper marks the property to be taken for railroad purposes cannot be done by the projectors of a railroad company before its incorporation, but only by the president and directors of a duly-incorporated company, their engineers and employees; and that an unauthorized preliminary survey, though well marked by a line of stakes indicating the location of a railroad, cannot be regarded as sufficient notice of a prior legal appropriation of the land, nor will the subsequent adoption of such survey by the company, after its incorporation, give it any right to the location as against another company, which had surveyed and taken possession of the land before the first-mentioned company had passed the resolution of adoption.
The cases cited by the plaintiff in error do not sustain its position.
Railroad Co. v. Blair, 9 N. J. Eq. 635, was a case of a contest for a right of way between two railroad companies, both duly incorporated, and it was held that the prior right attached to the company which first actually surveyed and adopted a route and filed their survey in the office of the secretary of state; and also that the mere expreimental surveying of a route will not confer any vested or legal right until it shall have been adopted.
The supreme court of Iowa, in Lower v. Railroad Co., 59 Iowa, 563, 13 N. W. 718, held that, though a railroad company may not, for some reason, have the legal right to condemn a right of way for a lateral line, it may cause another company of its own stockholders to be so organized as to have that power, and that, when such subsidiary company has condemned the right of way, it may lease its line to the former company, and in this there will be no fraud upon those whose lands have been condemned.
It is not perceived that these decisions, accepting them as sound, disclose any error in the ruling of the court below.
It is further made to appear, by the eleventh finding, that 'from the time of making the said survey by Burrage over the land in controversy, on the 28th day of October, 1886, until long after the completion of the railroad, side tracks, and [160 U.S. 77, 101] depot of the defendant the Coeur d'Alene Railway & Navigation Company upon the ground in controversy, neither the plaintiff, nor any person for it, ever made any other survey, or did any other act upon the premises, or took any possession thereof.'
While it may be that such a finding, standing alone, would not make out a case of estoppel of which the defendant could avail itself in an action at law, it is entitled to consideration when we are asked to adopt a construction of the act of congress which would enable the plaintiff company to take and enjoy the right of way enhanced in value by the improvements put thereon by the defendant. When a court of law is construing an instrument, whether a public law or a private contract, it is legitimate, if two constructions are fairly possible, to adopt that one which equity would favor.
The decree of the court below is affirmed.