Imágenes de páginas

Opinion of the Court.

any act which it assumes to do, and its liability to any obligation which is sought to be cast upon it, depend upon its charter, and when such charter is given by one of the laws of the United States there is the primary question of the extent and meaning of that law. In other words, as to every act or obligation the first question is whether that act or obligation is within the scope of the law of Congress, and that being the matter which must be first determined a suit by or against the corporation is one which involves a construction of the terms of its charter; in other words, a question arising under the law of Congress. But that argument is not pertinent here. The right of the contestants in an adverse suit, as we have seen, does not always call for any construction of an act of Congress. It may depend solely on local rules or customs or state statutes, and in that case does not involve a dispute or controversy "which depends upon the construction or effect of the Constitution, or some law or treaty of the United States." "In most actions concerning mining claims, the parties agree as to the proper rule of construction to be applied to the mining laws, and the controversies are usually limited to questions of fact relating to the compliance with these laws. In such cases the Federal courts have no original jurisdiction, unless there is a diversity of citizenship; but in cases arising under section twenty-three hundred and twenty-six of the Revised Statutes, the authority for the action is found in the legislation of Congress. Without this authority the action for the purposes avowed by the statute could not be maintained." 2 Lindley on Mines, sec. 748. A statute authorizing an action to establish a right is very different from one which creates a right to be established. An action brought under the one may involve no controversy as to the scope and effect of the statute, while in the other case it necessarily involves such a controversy, for the thing to be decided is the extent of the right given by the statute.

Again, it is said that this adverse suit is one step in the administration of the laws of the United States in respect to mineral lands, and therefore it must be presumed that Congress intended that such step should rightfully be taken in one of the courts of the United States. This suggestion was open to the

Opinion of the Court.

consideration of Congress when it was determining where the adverse suit should be brought, but that it did not consider it vital is evident from the conceded fact that unless the amount in controversy is over $2000, no jurisdiction attaches to the Federal court. In other words, Congress did not deem the matter of the jurisdiction of those courts so essential a part of the administration of the land laws of the United States as to vest in them jurisdiction of all such controversies, but left a large if not a major portion of them to be determined in the state courts. It evidently contemplated the fact that a controversy about a right of possession might as appropriately be decided in a state as in a Federal court, and, not prescribing in which court it should be litigated, left the matter to be determined by the ordinary rules in respect to the jurisdiction of the Federal courts.

Counsel also calls our attention to the difference in the procedure in the disposal of agricultural and mineral lands. With respect to the former all proceedings are carried on in the Land Department, and it is only after the legal title has passed by patent that inquiry is permissible in the courts, while in respect to the latter the aid of the courts is invoked before the issue of a patent and in order to determine to some extent the right thereto. Noticing this distinction he also notes the fact that a contest in respect to the validity of a patent for agricultural lands can be litigated in the Federal courts, and hence draws the inference that a contest preliminary to a patent for mineral lands, and involving the right thereto, must also be one which can be litigated in the same courts. But we think the true inference from this difference of procedure is to the contrary, because, in respect to agricultural lands, it is settled that all questions of fact are determined by the Land Department, and that after the issue of a patent only questions of law are open for consideration in the courts, and as the laws of Congress alone determine the matter of the disposal of the public lands it follows that the questions of law which are thus open for consideration are those arising under the acts of Congress. While on the other hand, as we have heretofore shown, in these adverse suits preliminary to a patent of mineral lands not merely ques

Opinion of the Court.

tions of law arising under the statutes of the United States, but questions of fact and questions arising under local rules and customs and state statutes are open for consideration. The scope of the inquiry which is permissible in the two cases emphasizes the fact that in the latter case the controversy may be one not arising under the Constitution or laws of Congress.

Again, it is said that Congress has in these cases prescribed a specific rule of limitation which is ordinarily different from that obtaining under state statutes in respect to actions for the recovery of possession; that it has authorized decrees in peculiar form, some partly for and partly against each of the different parties, and also some adversely to both. Act of March 3, 1881, c. 140, 21 Stat. 505; Richmond Mining Co. v. Rose, 114 U. S. 576, 585; Perego v. Dodge, 163 U. S. 160, 167. But incidental matters such as these are not decisive, especially as confessedly the statute leaves the jurisdiction over those cases in which the matter in controversy does not exceed $2000 in value in the state Courts. This fact shows conclusively that Congress was not intending to carve out a new jurisdiction for the Federal courts, and also that it did not doubt that the state courts would carry into effect its enactments in reference to limitations and procedure.

And, finally, it is said that Congress cannot confer any jurisdiction on the state courts, that they may decline to entertain these adverse suits, and that Congress cannot compel them to do so. But here again we are met with the fact that Congress has left all controversies in respect to right of possession not exceeding $2000 in value to the state courts. It evidently proceeded upon the supposition (which is a rightful one) that, as by the express terms of the Constitution, article 6, clause 2, "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; . . . shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding," no courts, national or state, would decline to carry into effect the acts of Congress. Whether if a state court should refuse to act under these statutes the matter is one which could be corrected by error in this court, is immaterial.

Opinion of the Court.

If it shall appear that state courts decline to entertain such jurisdiction, and that it cannot be enforced upon them, Congress may further legislate. Evidently, thus far in these cases, as in many others, there has been no reason to suppose that any state court would decline to enforce the laws of the United States or to carry into effect their provisions. And as was well said by Mr. Justice Miller, in Iron Silver Mining Co. v. Campbell, 135 U. S. 286, 299:

"The purpose of the statute seems to be that where there are two claimants to the same mine, neither of whom has yet acquired the title from the government, they shall bring their respective claims to the same property, in the manner prescribed in the statute, before some judicial tribunal located in the neighborhood where the property is, and that the result of this judicial investigation shall govern the action of the officers of the Land Department in determining which of these claimants shall have the patent, the final evidence of title, from the government."

If every adverse suit could be taken into the Federal courts, obviously in some of the larger Western States the litigation would not be "before some judicial tribunal located in the neighborhood where the property is," for in them the Federal courts are often held only in the capital or chief city of the State, and at a great distance from certain parts of the mining regions therein.

So, we conclude, as we did in the prior case, that, although these suits may sometimes so present questions arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States that the Federal courts will have jurisdiction, yet the mere fact that a suit is an adverse suit authorized by the statutes of Congress is not in and of itself sufficient to vest jurisdiction in the Federal courts.

It appears that there were two cases in the Circuit Court of Idaho, that they were there consolidated for trial, and the consolidated case taken on appeal to the Circuit Court of Appeals. Of the two original cases, No. 81, on the docket of the Circuit Court, was commenced by the appellees in that court. The other, No. 103, was commenced by the appellant in the district court of the first judicial district of the State of Idaho in and VOL. CLXXVII-33


for Shoshone County, and by the appellees removed to the Federal court. The matters involved in the two cases were similar, and hence the consolidation. Under these circumstances, and in view of the conclusion to which we have arrived, the order will be that

The judgment of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed, and the case remanded to the Circuit Court, Northern Division, District of Idaho, with instructions to reverse its decree and enter a decree dismissing Case No. 81, and an order remanding Case No. 102 to the state court.


MR. JUSTICE WHITE did not hear the argument and took no part in the decision of this case.



No. 198. Argued and submitted March 16, 1900.- Decided April 30, 1900.

A state statute required all regular passenger trains to stop a sufficient length of time at county seats to receive and let off passengers with safety. It appearing that the defendant company furnished four regular passenger trains per day each way, which were sufficient to accommodate all the local and through business, and that all such trains stopped at county seats, the act was held to be invalid as applied to an express train intended only for through passengers from St. Louis to New York.

While railways are bound to provide primarily and adequately for the accommodation of those to whom they are directly tributary, they have the legal right, after all these local conditions have been met, to adopt special provisions for through traffic, and legislative interference therewith is an infringement upon the clause of the Constitution which requires that commerce between the States shall be free and unobstructed.

« AnteriorContinuar »