« ForrigeFortsett »
sippi statute complained of, the exact form of that decree is not disclosed, for although there is a paper in the record which in one aspect apparently states the terms of the decree, in another aspect it is uncertain whether the paper referred to is anything but a motion made by the defendants for the modification of the decree. Be this as it may, the record leaves no doubt that on October 28, on the motion of the defendants, a new and changed form of final decree was entered, which was deemed to conform to the stipulation for submission. In this new decree it was first recited that the case had been submitted to and considered by the court primarily upon the partial demurrer, and that on such demurrer being overruled the defendant had elected to stand thereon, and had not excepted to the final decree on the merits. There was a recital in the concluding paragraph of the decree that a direct appeal to this court was allowed, notwithstanding the objection of the complainant.
In the printed transcript there is a paper styled Specifications of Error, which is undated and uncertified, but which we will assume was filed at the time the appeal was allowed. This paper is confined to a reiteration of the contentions as to want of jurisdiction of the court below as stated in the Partial Demurrer, adding the following:
“And, because, the bill shows on its face that the Federal Court is without jurisdiction, and could not hear and determine the issues raised by the said bill of complaint because the Louisville and Nashville Railroad is a Mississippi Corporation, and the Act of 1908, which prevents the removal of causes of foreign corporations to the Federal Court, had no reference and application to the said Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, which is a domestic corporation; and because the Act of 1908, referred to in said Bill of complaint, enacted by the Mississippi Legislature is unconstitutional and void, and in contravention of the Federal Constitution.”
The appellee moves to dismiss or affirm and in the brief of counsel the ground for the motion to dismiss is thus stated:
“The appeal in this case should be dismissed because the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is the sole question raised, and such question has not been certified by the Circuit Court to this Court."
The appellants, while concurring that jurisdiction is the sole question involved, insist that that question is adequately presented by the action of the court or sufficiently appears upon the face of the record to give power to review, and, meeting the motion to affirm, it is insisted that the court below erred in holding that there was a sufficient averment of diversity of citizenship in the bill to give jurisdiction as a Federal court and that even if this were not the case the court erred in taking jurisdiction because the subject-matter of the controversy prior to the institution of the suit below, as shown by the bill, was involved in and pending before a state court as the result of the action brought against the railroad company to enforce the Mississippi statute. The appellee, replying to these contentions and reiterating that the jurisdictional question was the sole question presented, yet proceeds to urge that even if the view be taken that the court below was wrong in deciding that adequate diversity of citizenship was alleged, nevertheless the judgment should be affirmed because of the existence of the constitutional question concerning the repugnancy of the Mississippi. statute to the Constitution of the United States as to which the decision of the court was clearly right and not ubjected to. It becomes at once apparent when the contentions of the parties are thus summed up that the propositions urged on both sides are conflicting and irreconcilable one with the other, since both in effect insist that the sole question on which the direct appeal may rest is one of jurisdiction and yet at the same time urge that the juris
dictional question is not the sole question because of the existence of one involving the construction of the Constitution of the United States. This is so obviously true as to the position taken by the appellee as to need only statement. That it is also true as to the position of the appellants is demonstrated by observing that it has long since been settled that a mere conflict between courts concerning the right to adjudicate upon a particular subjectmatter growing out of a priority of jurisdiction in another forum involves a question of comity, which there would be no right to consider if the direct appeal involved solely a question of jurisdiction. Courtney v. Pradt, 196 U. S. 89, 91, and cases cited.
The confusion in the contentions of the parties which thus appears, in our opinion will be dispelled and the questions for decision be made apparent by a consideration of the statement heretofore made. From that statement we think there is no real room for controversy: First. That the court below in taking jurisdiction of the cause and deciding it notwithstanding the partial demurrer maintained its power and jurisdiction as a Federal court; Second. That in rendering a decree on the merits the court necessarily decided the question or questions under the Constitution expressly alleged in the bill. This conclusion dispenses with the necessity of considering the question of certificate as to jurisdiction, since the issue on that subject, whether certified or not, is open, in view of the constitutional questions raised in the bill. Chappell v. United States, 160 U. S. 499, 509.
While logically this view would adversely dispose of the motion to dismiss, it would undoubtedly, as a general proposition, require the granting of the motion to affirm without passing upon the question of diversity of citizenship, since, from the statement we have made of the case, it appears that the correctness of the decision below as to the constitutional question was in effect conceded. We
Opinion of the Court.
225 U. S.
think, however, there is room for concluding that the argument on behalf of the appellants, upon the theory that it is justified by the record, proceeds upon the hypothesis that if there was no diversity of citizenship, the statute assailed in the bill was on its face so plainly inapplicable to the situation as to cause the assertion of its repugnancy to the Constitution to be unsubstantial and frivolous and therefore insufficient to afford a basis either for jurisdiction in the court below or to warrant an affirmance by this court of the decree which was made below. As even although the premise upon which this proposition rests be not conceded, the demonstration of its unsoundness would require a consideration of the subject of diversity of citizenship and the relation of that subject to the assault made by the bill upon the statute, to avoid unnecessary analysis we come at once to consider the sufficiency of the averments of the bill as to the diverse citizenship of the complainant.
The whole argument as to the citizenship of the complainant turns not upon an express denial by the appellants in any form of the Kentucky citizenship of complainant directly alleged in the bill, but upon an insistence that the express averment upon that subject is so qualified by the subsequent allegations recounting the history of the road in Mississippi as at least to engender doubt sufficient to destroy the effect of such positive averment. No statement in the bill directly and expressly giving rise to such result is relied upon, but the whole contention is that by inference or subtle analysis of various paragraphs of the bill it must follow that the result above stated arises. Without, however, undertaking to restate the passages in the bill relied upon or to follow the forms of statement by which the result claimed to arise from the bill is sought to be demonstrated, we content outselves with saying that we think the conclusion deduced from them is unwarranted, for the following reasons: a. Because the passages
in the bill relied upon to create the doubt or inconsistency when construed in connection with the context had reference to the alleged impairment of the obligation of a contract and were not addressed to the subject of citizenship; b. Because it would do violence to the very purpose of the bill to attribute to it the self-destructive effect which would result from upholding the contention insisted upon, especially in view of the nature and character of the litigation and the relation of the parties to the subject-matter in controversy. We say this because the very object of the bill was to prevent the State from enforcing against the
company, as a foreign corporation owning and operating the road in Mississippi, a forfeiture and penalties which it is admitted would not have been applicable to the corporation if it was a domestic corporation of Mississippi. Nothing could make the conditions stated clearer than to recall the argument, heretofore adversely disposed of, which was pressed upon our attention by counsel for appellants to demonstrate that the court erred in exerting jurisdiction because of the pendency of the suit in the state court brought by the State of Mississippi wherein it was expressly averred that the railroad company was a corporation of the State of Kentucky and that it had never been incorporated in the State of Mississippi.
From these considerations it results that the judgment below must be and it is