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RAILROAD COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI v. LOUISVILLE & NASHVILLE RAILROAD COMPANY.
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI.
No. 903. Submitted May 13, 1912. Decided June 7, 1912.
A mere conflict between courts concerning the right to adjudicate upon a particular matter growing out of a priority of jurisdiction in another forum involves a question of comity, which there is no right to consider on a direct appeal to this court under § 5 of the act of 1891. Courtney v. Pradt, 196 U. S. 89.
In this case held, that the Circuit Court in taking jurisdiction and deciding the cause on the merits, notwithstanding there was a partial demurrer to the jurisdiction, maintained its power and jurisdiction as a Circuit Court, and also necessarily decided questions arising under the Constitution expressly alleged in the bill.
Where in rendering a decree on the merits the court necessarily decided the constitutional question expressly alleged in the bill, the issue on that subject is open in this court, whether the jurisdictional question be certified or not.
THE facts are stated in the opinion.
Mr. Henry L. Stone, Mr. G. L. Smith, Mr. Marcellus Green and Mr. Garner Wynn Green, for appellee, in support of motion.
Mr. Hannis Taylor, Mr. Claude Clayton and Mr. W. D. Anderson for appellants, in opposition thereto.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.
This case is before us on a motion to dismiss or affirm. The confused state of the record requires, in order to make clear the considerations which control us in dispos
ing of the motion, a fuller statement than otherwise would be necessary.
On August 5, 1908, a suit in equity was commenced in the Chancery Court of Hancock County, Mississippi, against the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company to compel obedience to an order of the State Railroad Commission of Mississippi requiring the stoppage of certain interstate trains at a particular place. Upon the ground of diversity of citizenship, the railroad company removed the cause into the appropriate Circuit Court of the United States. Thereupon proceedings were commenced in the Chancery Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, against the railroad company to enforce an act of the legislature of Mississippi approved March 20, 1908, known as the anti-removal statute, by perpetually enjoining the company from engaging in intrastate commerce within the State of Mississippi and by subjecting it to large pecuniary penalties. It was specifically averred in the bill that the railroad company was a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Kentucky, and that it had never been incorporated under the laws of Mississippi.
This case was then commenced on behalf of the railroad company in the court below against the Railroad Commission and various officials of the State of Mississippi to enjoin the commencement of any other proceeding than that pending in Harrison County, having for its object the enforcement of the forfeiture and penalty provisions of the act of 1908, which act was assailed as repugnant to the commerce clause, the contract clause and to specified provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Chancery Court of Harrison County was also averred to be without jurisdiction of the suit pending before it. The complainant railroad company was alleged to be a corporation created and organized under the laws of Kentucky and a citizen of said State, having its principal place of business at Louisville, Kentucky. The defendants were alleged to
be citizens of the State of Mississippi. It was further alleged that the complainant, as a corporation as aforesaid, owned and operated as a common carrier a railroad between Cincinnati and New Orleans passing through various counties in the State of Mississippi, and that it had been for more than twenty-five years engaged in the operation of a portion of its road so situated in Mississippi. Evidently for the purpose of laying the basis for a claim of contract right the facts concerning the construction of the road operated by the complainant in the State of Mississippi were stated in substance as follows: In 1866 the legislature of Alabama incorporated what was known as the New Orleans, Mobile and Chattanooga Railroad Company, and authorized it to build a railroad from Mobile to New Orleans; an act of the legislature of Mississippi, passed in 1867, which was attached as an exhibit to the bill, authorized and empowered the Alabama corporation "to exercise and enjoy its corporate power and franchise in the State of Mississippi." An act of the legislature of Louisiana authorized the same corporation to construct its road from the Mississippi state line to New Orleans; and an act of Congress approved in March, 1868 (March 2, 1868, 15 Stat. 38, c. 15), empowered the corporation in the construction of its road to build bridges over navigable waters in the State of Mississippi. There were also averments of the placing by the Alabama corporation of a mortgage upon its property and the subsequent construction of the road from Mobile to New Orleans; a change of the name of the railroad by the legislature of Alabama to the name of the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas Railroad; default in the payment of bonds; a foreclosure sale; the incorporation of the purchasers by the name of the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas Railroad Company, as reorganized. It was then specifically alleged that said company "thereafter, on October 5, 1881, sold and conveyed all of its property and franchises of every kind and
description except the franchise to be and exist as a corporation, to complainant, who has ever since owned said railroad and operated it as a common carrier of interstate and intrastate freight and passengers as aforesaid."
Proceedings contained in the transcript, to which we shall hereafter have occasion to refer, as well as the index to the transcript as filed, contained in the printed transcript, establish that a demurrer was filed to the bill of complaint, which is not in the printed record, and we do not therefore refer to the same. Nearly three years after the filing of the bill what was styled "Partial Demurrer to Original Bill" was filed in the cause. This demurrer charged, first, that the court was without jurisdiction because on the face of the bill it was shown "that the complainant, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company, is a Mississippi corporation, and that the defendants are also citizens of Mississippi, and that therefore there is no diversity of citizenship between the parties to give the court jurisdiction of the cause." This claim was solely attempted to be supported by argumentative statements in the demurrer as to the effect of the averments in the bill concerning the history of the portion of the road in Mississippi, its construction by an Alabama corporation, the legal effect of the Mississippi act of 1867 authorizing the Alabama corporation to build a road in Mississippi and the supposed operation of an act of the legislature of Mississippi of 1882 upon the purchase of the road built in that State following the foreclosure, which, it was averred, took place in 1883 after the passage of the act of 1882, instead of in October, 1881, as averred in the bill. As an additional and independent ground of demurrer, it was claimed that the suit should be dismissed because "at the time the suit in the case of State v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company was filed in the Chancery Court of Hancock County, Mississippi, there was no Federal question on the face of the bill which authorized its removal under
the Constitution and Laws of the United States, and said suit is made an exhibit to this demurrer for the purpose of considering the same."
On the day the "Partial Demurrer" was filed an answer was filed, which was divided into numbered paragraphs corresponding to the numbered paragraphs of the bill. The citizenship of the plaintiff was neither admitted nor denied, and we think it suffices from the view we take of the case to say that the answer in one mode or another dealt mainly with the averments of the bill respecting the history of the organization of the New Orleans, Mobile & Chattanooga Railroad Company, the construction of the road in Mississippi, the sale under foreclosure, the purchase, etc. A few days afterwards a general replication was filed, and on the same day a stipulation was entered into between counsel in the first paragraph of which it was provided as follows:
"That this cause may be submitted and heard at the May term, 1911, of said court at Jackson, and that the time for taking proof under the rules is waived, and that said cause may be heard on the original bill, partial demurrer, and partial demurrer and replication by the Court, and that setting the cause for hearing under this agreement shall not operate to admit the allegations of the answer." The foregoing was followed, in the next paragraph of the stipulation, by a provision for a hearing of the cause "upon the bill and answer and replication upon the testimony theretofore taken by affidavits and any other evidence that may be offered orally by either side on the hearing," and various specified printed charters and statutes which were enumerated and which concerned facts alleged in the bill and answer were stipulated to be admitted in evidence.
While it is certain that on or before October 24, 1911, the court entered a final decree in favor of the complainant, perpetually enjoining the enforcement of the Missis