« ForrigeFortsett »
Supreme Court of the United States
OCTOBER TERM, 1898.
Authenticated copy of opinion record strictly followed, except as to such reference words and Agures as are inclosed in brackets.]
in any court of the United States than according to the rules of common law is not violated by allowing an appeal, for trial by a common-law jury, from the judgment on the verdict of a jury of twelve men in a court of a justice of the peace, as that is not a common-law jury.
The right of trial by jury is not unduly obstructed by enlarging the civil jurisdiction of justices of the peace to $300, and requiring every appellant to give security to pay and satisfy the judgment of the appellate court in order to obtain a trial by a common-law jury on appeal.
Argued January 5, 6, 1899. Decided April 11, 1899.
IN ERROR to the Court of Appeals of the
1. This court has jurisdiction of a writ of error to the court of appeals of the District of Columbia, to review its decision as to the validity and effect of the legislation of ConDistrict of Columbia to review a judg gress conferring upon justices of the peace in that District jurisdiction in civil actions in ment of that court reversing an order of the which the matter in dispute exceeds $20 Supreme Court of the District and remandin value, and providing for a trial by jury being the case with directions to quash a writ fore the justice, an appeal to the supreme of certiorari to a justice of the peace to precourt of the District, and a trial by jury invent a civil action to recover damages in the the appellate court, at the request of either sum of $300 from being tried by a jury beparty. fore him. Affirmed.
2. Trial by jury under the Constitution means
3. A trial by a jury of twelve men before a
6. The constitutional provision, that no fact
and 10 App. D. C. 205.
The facts are stated in the opinion.
*Mr. Justice Gray delivered the opinion of  the court:
On September 8, 1896, the Capital Traction Company, a street-railway corporation in the District of Columbia, presented to the supreme court of the District a petition for a writ of certiorari to a justice of the peace to prevent a civil action to recover damages  in the sum of $300 from being tried by a jury before him.
The petition for a writ of certiorari alleged that Charles Hof, on August 17, 1896, caused a summons to be issued by Lewis I.
O'Neal, Esquire, one of the justices of the peace in and for the District of Columbia, summoning the Capital Traction Company to appear before him on August 20, 1896, "to answer unto the complaint of Charles Hof in a plea of damage of $300," and the matter was postponed until September 8, on which day, after the company had put in its plea, and issue had been joined thereon, the attorney for Hof demanded of the justice of the peace that the action should be tried by a jury, and thereupon the justice of the peace issued a venire to a constable, commanding him to summon twelve jurors to appear before said justice on September 10; that the petitioner was advised that such a demand for the so-called jury was founded upon sections 1009-1016 of the Revised Statutes of the District of Columbia, and was intended to subject the petitioner, without appeal, to a form of trial before a justice of the peace, unknown to the common law, and, as the petitioner was advised, illegal and unconstitutional; that the petitioner was informed and believed that Hof's claim was for damages sustained by him through its negligence, while he was a passenger on one of its cars; and that it had a good defense on the merits to his claim, and sought a fair opportunity to make such defense before an impartial tribunal, and was ready and willing to give any security that might be required for the prompt payment of any final judgment which might be pronounced against it in due course of law.
The petition further averred that the only method in which Hof's claim against the petitioner could be tried by a jury according to the common law and the Constitution was by removing his suit from the justice of the peace into the supreme court of the District of Columbia; that if this was not done, the petitioner would be deprived of its constitutional right to a trial by jury, and would be in danger of being deprived of its property  without due process of law, and would be denied the equal protection of the laws; and that the amount claimed by Hof was within the jurisdiction of that court.
Wherefore the petitioner prayed that a writ of certiorari might be issued to the justice of the peace to remove Hof's claim into that court for trial according to the course of the common law, upon such terms as to security for costs and damages as the court might think proper; and for such other and further relief as the petitioner might be entitled to.
The supreme court of the District of Columbia granted a writ of certiorari to the justice of the peace, as prayed for; and the justice of the peace, in his return thereto, set forth the proceedings before him in the action of Hof against the Capital Traction Company, showing the issue and return of the summons to the defendant, its oral plea of not guilty, the plaintiff's joinder of issue and demand of a jury, and the stay of further proceedings by the writ of certiorari.
On October 6, 1896, the supreme court of the District of Columbia overruled a motion of Hof to quash the writ of certiorari; and entered an order quashing all proceedings
before the justice of the peace after issue joined. 24 Wash. L. Rep. 646. Hof appealed to the court of appeals of the District of Columbia, which on February 17, 1897, reversed that order, and remanded the case with directions to quash the writ of certiorari. 10 App. D. C. 205. The Capital Traction Company thereupon sued out a writ of error from this court, under the act of February 9, 1893, chap. 74, § 8. 27 Stat. at L. 436.
The petition for a writ of certiorari presents for determination a serious and important question of the validity, as well as the interpretation and effect, of the legislation of Congress conferring upon justices of the peace in the District of Columbia jurisdiction in civil actions in which the matter in dispute exceeds twenty dollars in value, and providing for a trial by a jury before the justice of the peace, an appeal from his judgment to the supreme court of the District of Columbia, and a trial by jury, at the request of either party, in the appellate court. This court, therefore, has jurisdiction of the writ of error. Baltimore & Potomac Railroad Co. v. Hopkins, 130 U. S. 210, 224 [32: 908, 913]; Parsons v. District of Columbia,  170 U. S. 45 [42: 943].
The court of appeals was unanimous in maintaining the validity of the proceedings locking to a trial by a jury before the justice of the peace. But there was a difference of opinion between the two associate justices and the chief justice upon the question whether such a trial before the justice of the peace would be a trial by jury according to the common law and the Constitution; as well as upon the question whether the trial by jury, allowed by Congress in the supreme court of the district, upon appeal from the judgment of the justice of the peace, and upon the condition of giving bond to pay the final judgment of the appellate court, satisfied the requirements of the Constitution.
I. The Congress of the United States, being empowered by the Constitution "to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the seat of the national government, has the entire control over the District of Columbia for every purpose of government, national or local. It may exercise within the District all legislative powers that the legislature of a state might exercise within the state; and may vest and distribute the judicial authority in and among courts and magistrates, and regulate judicial proceedings before them, as it may think fit, so long as it does not contravene any provision of the Constitution of the United States. Kendall v. United States [Stokes] (1838) 12 Pet. 524, 619 [9: 1181, 1218]; Mattingly v. District of Columbia (1878) 97 U. S. 687, 690 [24: 1098, 1100]; Gibbons v. District of Columbia (1886) 116 U. S. 404, 407 [29: 680, 681].
It is beyond doubt, at the present day, that the provisions of the Constitution of the United States securing the right of trial by jury, whether in civil or in criminal cases, are applicable to the District of Columbia. Webster v. Reid (1850) 11 How. 437, 460 [13: 761, 770];Callan v. Wilson (1888) 127
U. S. 540, 550 [32: 223, 226]; Thompson v. Utah (1898) 170 U. S. 343 [42: 1061]. The decision of this case mainly turns upon the scope and effect of the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. It may therefore be convenient, before particularly examining the acts Jci Congress now in question, to *refer to the circumstances preceding and attending the adoption of this Amendment, to the contemporaneous understanding of its terms, and to the subsequent judicial interpretation thereof, as aids in ascertaining its true meaning, and its application to the case at
II. The first Continental Congress, in the Declaration of Rights adopted October 14, 1774, unanimously resolved that "the respective Colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law." 1 Journals of Congress, 28.
The Ordinance of 1787 declared that the inhabitants of the Northwest Territory should "always be entitled to the benefits of the writ of habeas corpus, and of the trial by jury," "and of judicial proceedings according to the course of the common law." 1 Charters and Constitutions, 431.
The Constitution of the United States, as originally adopted, merely provided in article 3, section 3, that "the trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury." In the Convention which framed the Constitution, a motion to add this clause, "and a trial by jury shall be preserved as usual in civil cases,' was opposed by Mr. Gorham of Massachusetts, on the ground that "the constitution of juries is different in different states, and the trial itself is usual in different cases, in different states;" and was unanimously rejected. 5 Elliott's Debates, 550.
preme court there should be no re-examination of facts where they had been tried in the original causes by juries;" but if this "should be thought too extensive, it might be qualified with a limitation to such causes only as are determinable at common law in that mode of trial." 2 Federalist (ed. 1788) pp. 319-321, 335, 336.
At the first session of the first Congress under the Constitution, Mr. Madison, in the House of Representatives, on June 8, 1789, submitted propositions to amend the Constitution by adding, to the clause concerning the appellate jurisdiction of this court, the words, "nor shall any fact, triable by a jury, according to the course of the common law, be otherwise re-examinable than according to the principles of the common law;" and, to the clause concerning trial by jury, these words: "In suits at common law, between man and man, the trial by jury, as one of the best securities to the rights of the people, ought to remain inviolate." 1 Annals of Congress, 424, 435. And those propositions, somewhat altered in form, were embodied in a single article, which was proposed by Congress on September 25, 1789, to the legislatures of the several states, and upon being duly ratified by them, became the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, in these words: "In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved; and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined, in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
A comparison of the language of the Seventh Amendment, as finally made part of the Constitution of the United States, with the Declaration of Rights of 1774, with the Ordinance *of 1787, with the essays of Mr. Hamilton in 1788, and with the amendments introduced by Mr. Madison in Congress in 1789, strongly tends to the conclusion that the Seventh Amendment, in declaring that "no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined, in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law," had in view the rules of the common law of England, and not the rules of that law as modified by local statute or usage in any of the states.
This conclusion has been established, and "the rules of the common law" in this respect clearly stated and defined, by judicial decisions.
Mr. Hamilton, in number 81 of the Federalist, when discussing the clause of the Constitution which confers upon this court "appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Congress shall make," and again, in more detail, in number 83, when answering the objection to the want of any provision securing trial by jury in civil actions, stated the diversity then existing in the laws of the different states regarding appeals and jury trials; and especially pointed out that in the New England states, and in those In United States v. Wonson (1812) 1 alone, appeals were allowed, as of course, Gall. 5, a verdict and judgment for the defrom one jury to another until there had fendant having been rendered in the district been two verdicts on one side, and in no court of the United States for the district of other state but Georgia was there any *ap- Massachusetts in an action of debt for a peal from one to another jury. The diver- penalty, the United States appealed to the sity in the laws of the several states, he in-circuit court, and were held not to be entisisted, "shows the impropriety of a technical definition derived from the jurisprudence of any particular state," and "that no general rule could have been fixed upon by the Convention which would have corresponded with the circumstances of all the states." And he suggested that "the legislature of the United States would certainly have full power to provide that in appeals to the su
tled to try by a new jury in that court facts which had been tried and determined by the jury in the court below. "We should search in vain," said Mr. Justice Story, "in the common law, for an instance of an appellate court retrying the cause by a jury, while the former verdict and judgment remained in full force. The practice indeed seems to be a peculiarity of New England, and, if I am
not misinformed, does not exist in more than | ton & Quincy Railroad Co. v. Chicago (1897) one (if any) other state in the Union." 166 U. S. 226, 246 [41: 979, 988]. And, after quoting the words of the Seventh Amendment, he observed: "Beyond all question, the common law here alluded to is not the common law of any individual state (for it probably differs in all), but it is the common law of England, the grand reservoir of all our jurisprudence." "Now, according to the rules of the common law, the facts once tried by a jury are never re-examined, unless a new trial is granted in the discretion of the court, before which the suit is depending, for good cause shown; or unless the judgment of such court is reversed by a superior tribunal, on a writ of error, and a venire facias de novo is awarded. This is the invariable usage, settled by the decisions of ages." ." 1 Gall. 14, 20.
The judiciary act of September 24, 1789, chap. 20, drawn by Senator (afterwards Chief Justice) Ellsworth, and passed-within six months after the organization of the government under the Constitution, and on the day before the first ten Amendments were proposed to the legislatures of the statesby the First Congress, in which were many eminent men who had been members of the convention which formed the Constitution, has always been considered as a contempora neous exposition of the highest authority. Cohens v. Virginia (1821) 6 Wheat. 264, 420 [5: 257, 295]; Parsons v. Bedford, above cited; Börs v. Preston (1884) 111 U. S. 252, 256 [28: 419, 420]; Ames v. Kansas [Johnston] (1884) 111 U. S. 449, 463, 464 In Parsons v. Bedford (1830) 3 Pet. 433 [28: 482, 488]; Wisconsin v. Pelican Ins. Co. [7: 732], this court, on writ of error to a (1888) 127 U. S. 265, 297 [32: 239, 246]. lower court of the United States, held that That act provided, in §§ 9 and 12, that the *it had no power to re-examine facts tried by trial of issues of fact, in a district or circuit a jury in the court below, although that court, in all suits, except those of equity or court was held in Louisiana, where Congress admiralty jurisdiction, should be by jury; had enacted that the mode of proceeding in § 13, that the trial of issues of fact in this should conform to the laws directing the court, in the exercise of its original jurisdicmode of practice in the district courts of the tion, in all actions at law against citizens of state, and a statute of the state authorized the United States, should be by jury; in § 17, its supreme court to try anew on appeal that "all the said courts of the United facts tried by a jury in a district court. States" should "have power to grant new Mr. Justice Story, in delivering the judg- trials, in cases where there has been a trial ment of this court, expounding the Seventh by jury, for reasons for which new trials Amendment to the Constitution, after show- have usually been granted in the courts of ing that in the first clause the words "suits law;" and in §§ 22 and 24, that final judgat common law" were used in contradistinc-ments of the district court might be reviewed tion to suits in equity and in admiralty, and by the circuit court, and final judgments of included "not merely suits which the com- the circuit court be reviewed by this court, mon law recognized among its old and set-upon writ of error, for errors in law, but not tled proceedings," but all suits in which legal rights, and not equitable rights, were ascertained and determined, proceeded as follows: "But the other clause of the Amendment is still more important; and we read it as a substantial and independent clause. No fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined, in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. This is a prohibition to the courts of the United States to re-examine any facts, tried by a jury, in any other manner. The only modes known to the common law to re examine such facts are the granting of a new trial by the court where the issue was tried, or to which the record was properly returnable; or the award of a venire facias de novo, by an appellate court, for some error of law which intervened in the proceedings." 3 Pet. 446-448 [7: 736, 737].
for any error in fact. 1 Stat. at L. 77, 80, 81, 83, 84. Those provisions, so far as regards actions at law, have since remained in force, almost uninterruptedly; and they have been re-enacted in the Revised Statutes, allowing the parties, however, to waive a jury and have their case tried by the court. Rev. Stat. §§ 566, 633, 648, 689, 691, 726, 1011.
The only instances that have come to our notice, in which Congress has undertaken to authorize a second trial by jury to be had in a court of the United States, while the verdict of a jury upon a former trial in a court of record has not been set aside, are to be found in two temporary acts passed during the last war with Great Britain, and in an act passed during the War of the Rebellion and continued in force for a short time afterwards, each of which provided that certain actions brought in a state court against ofThis last statement has been often reaf- ficers or persons acting under the authority firmed by this court. Barreda v. Silsbee of the United States might, after final judg(1858) 21 How. 146, 166 [16: 86, 93]; Jus- ment, be removed by appeal or writ of error tices v. Murray (1869) 9 Wall. 274, 277 to the circuit court of the United States, [11} [19: 658, 660]; Miller v. Brooklyn Life In- and that court should "thereupon proceed to surance Co. (1870) 12 Wall. 285, 300 try and determine the facts and the law in [20: 398, 401]; Knickerbocker Insurance Co. such action in the same manner as if the v. Comstock (1872) 16 Wall. 258, 269 same had been there originally commenced, [21: 493, 498]; Mercantile Mut. Insurance the judgment in such case notwithstanding." Co. v. Folsom (1873) 18 Wall. 237, 249 Acts of February 4, 1815, chap. 31, §§ 8. 13, [21: 827, 833]; New York C. & H. R. R. Co. and March 3, 1815, chap. 94, §§ 6, 8; 3 Stat. v. Fraloff (1879) 100 U. S. 24, 31 (25: 531- at L. 199, 200, 234, 235; Act of March 3, 535]; Lincoln v. Power (1894) 151 U. S. 1863, chap. 81, § 5; 12 Stat. at L. 757; Act 436, 438 [38: 224, 225]; Chicago, Burling-of May 11, 1866, chap. 80, § 3; 14 Stat. at
L. 46. But such a provision, so far as it
tended. Its language, upon any reasonable, if not necessary, interpretation, we think, applies to this entire class, no matter from what court the case comes, of which cogni zance can be taken by the appellate court." The ratio decidendi, the line of thought per vading and controlling the whole opinion, was that the Seventh Amendment undoubtedly prohibited any court of the United States from re-examining facts once tried by a jury in a lower court of the United States, and that there was no reason why the prohibition should not equally apply to a case brought into a court of the United States from a state court. "In both instances," it was said, "the cases are to be disposed of by the same system of laws, and by the same judicial tribunal." 9 Wall. 277-279 [19: 660, 661].
In Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad Co. v. Chicago, 166 U. S. 226, 242-244 [41: 979, 987] the same course of reasoning was followed, and was applied to a case brought  by writ of error from the highest court of a state to this court.
It must therefore be taken as established, by virtue of the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution, that either party to an action at law (as distinguished from suits in equity or in admiralty) in a court of the United States, where the value in controversy exceeds twenty dollars, has the right to a trial by jury; that, when a trial by jury has been had in an action at law, in a court either of the United States or of a state, the facts there tried and decided cannot be re-examined in any court of the United States, otherwise than according to the rules of the common law of England; that by the rules of that law, no other mode of re-examination is allowed than upon a new trial, either granted by the court in which the first trial was had or to which the record was returnable, or ordered by an appellate court for error in law; and therefore that, unless a new trial has been granted in one of those two ways, facts once tried by a jury cannot be tried anew, by a jury or otherwise, in any court of the United States.
In Justices v. Murray, an action was brought by Patrie against Murray, a United States marshal, and his deputy, in the supreme court of the state of New York, and a verdict and judgment for the plaintiff were rendered in that court. The defendant sued out a writ of error from the circuit court of the United States, under the act of Congress of March 3, 1863, chap. 81, § 5; and moved the state court to stay proceedings. The state court denied the motion, and refused to make a return to the writ of error, upon the ground that the act of Congress, so far as it provided that a case, after verdict and judgment in a state court, might be removed to the circuit court of the United States for trial and determination upon both the facts and the law, in the same manner as if the case had been originally commenced in that court, was in violation of the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and for that reason null and void. Patrie v. Murray, 43 Barb. 323. Thereupon the circuit court of the United States, without expressing any opinion upon this point, granted a writ of mandamus to the clerk of the state  court. Murray v. Patrie, 5 Blatchf. 343, 9 Wall. 276, note [19: 658]. The judgment of the circuit court ordering a mandamus was then brought to this court by writ of error, and reversed. Mr. Justice Nelson, in delivering judgment, after remarking that the case (which had been twice argued by very able counsel) had received the most deliberate consideration of the court, quoting the statements of Mr. Justice Story in Parsons v. Bed-new trial, as of right, in an action of ejectford, above cited, and recognizing that the second clause of the Seventh Amendment could not be invoked in a state court to prohibit it from re-examining, on a writ of error, facts that had been tried by a jury in a lower court, went on to say: "It is admitted that the clause applies to the appellate powers of the Supreme Court of the United States in all common-law cases coming up from an inferior Federal court, and also to the circuit court, in like cases, in the exercise of its appellate powers. And why not, as it respects the exercise of these powers, in cases of Federal cognizance coming up from a state court? The terms of the Amendment are general, and contain no qualification in respect to the restriction upon the appellate jurisdiction of the courts, except as to the class of cases, namely, suits at common law, where the trial has been by jury. The natural inference is that no other was in
The case of enforcing, in a court of the United States, a statute of a state giving one
ment, is quite exceptional; and such a statute does not enlarge, but restricts, the rules of the common law as to re-examining facts once tried by a jury, for by the common law a party was not concluded by a single verdict and judgment in ejectment, but might bring as many successive ejectments as he pleased, unless restrained by a court of equity after repeated verdicts against him. Bacon, Abe. Ejectment, L. Equator Min. & Smelting Co. v. Hall (1882) 106 U. S. 86 [27: 114]; Smale v. Mitchell (1892) 143 U. S. 99 [36: 90].
III. "Trial by jury," in the primary and usual sense of the term at the common law and in the American Constitutions, is not merely a trial by a jury of twelve men before an officer vested with authority to cause them to be summoned and impaneled, to administer oaths to them and to the constable in charge, and to enter judgment and issue execution