Railroad Company v. Alabama
101 U.S. 832

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U.S. Supreme Court

Railroad Company v. Alabama, 101 U.S. 832 (1879)

Railroad Company v. Alabama

101 U.S. 832

Syllabus

1. Railroad Company v. Tennessee, supra, p. 101 U. S. 337, cited and approved.

2. Where the statute of Alabama subjecting her to suit in her courts was in force at the time when a contract with her was made and a suit thereon brought, but their functions were essentially those of a board of audit, and the plaintiff had no means of enforcing the payment of a judgment or a decree in his favor, held that the repeal of the statute deprives the court of jurisdiction to proceed, and is not in violation of the contract clause of the Constitution of the United States.

The Revised Code of Alabama contains the following provisions:

"SEC. 2534. State may be sued by citizens, or domestic corporations. A citizen of this state, or a domestic corporation, may bring suit against the State of Alabama, in the circuit or chancery court of the county in which he resides, or in which such corporation is located, which must, in all respects, be governed by the same rules as suits between individuals."

"SEC. 2535. Solicitor of circuit defends for the state. The solicitor of the circuit in which the suit is pending must attend to the suit on the part of the state, and the governor may, if necessary, employ assistant counsel, and the judge of the court determine the compensation."

"SEC. 2536. Comptroller to pay judgment, on certificate of the judge and clerk, after six months. If judgment be rendered against the state, it is the duty of the comptroller, on the certificate of the clerk of the court, together with that of the judge who tried the cause, that the recovery was just, to issue his warrant for the amount, but no certificate must issue until six months after the recovery of judgment."

"SEC. 2571. Summons left with governor when state is sued. When the State of Alabama is a defendant, the summons must be executed by leaving a copy of the summons and complaint with the governor."

"SEC. 3323. The state may bring suit in chancery and be defendant therein. The state may sue and be sued, by a citizen of the state, or domestic corporation, in chancery, and the suit is governed by the same rules as suits between individuals. The solicitor

Page 101 U. S. 833

of the circuit in which the suit is pending must attend to the same on the part of the state, and the governor may employ assistant counsel, if he deem it necessary, and the Chancellor may determine the amount of compensation; and if unsuccessful, the state is liable for costs as individual suitors are. The direction of the executive of the state, in writing, is sufficient authority to the attorney for bringing such suit."

These provisions are substantially the same as those contained in the Revised Code of 1852, and were in force when the act of Feb. 18, 1860, was passed, loaning and appropriating what is known in her legislation as the three percent fund.

The South and North Alabama Railroad Company, a corporation chartered by the laws of that state, brought a suit in chancery against her April 4, 1874, in the Chancery Court of Montgomery County. It claimed title to that fund under her contract and legislation, and prayed for an account. The state, by her law officer, appeared and answered. An amended bill was filed Dec. 21, 1874.

The following act was approved Dec. 18, 1874:

"SEC. 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Alabama, that sections numbered two thousand five hundred and thirty-four (2534), two thousand five hundred and thirty-six (2536), two thousand five hundred and seventy-one (2571), and three thousand three hundred and twenty-three (3323) of the Revised Code of Alabama be, and the same are, hereby repealed."

"SEC. 2. Be it further enacted, that all laws and parts of laws in conflict with the provisions of this act, or which make any provisions for bringing or conducting suits against this state, be, and the same are, hereby repealed."

The state, by her Attorney General, moved the court, May 11, 1875, to dismiss the cause, on the ground that there was then no law authorizing suits to be brought against her, and that the suit could not be further maintained because the law which may have authorized its institution had been repealed.

The court sustained the motion and dismissed the suit at the costs of the complainant. The Supreme Court on appeal affirmed the order of dismissal, and the company sued out this writ.

Page 101 U. S. 834

The cause was argued by Mr. Samuel F. Rice and Mr. Thomas G. Jones for the plaintiff in error, and submitted on brief by Mr. John T. Morgan for the defendant in error.

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