Boers v. Preston - 111 U.S. 252 (1884)
U.S. Supreme Court
Boers v. Preston, 111 U.S. 252 (1884)
Boers v. Preston
Argued January 4, 1884
Decided April 7, 1884
111 U.S. 252
In cases coming from the circuit courts, this Court will determine from its own inspection of the record whether they are of the class excluded by statute from the cognizance of those courts; this although the question of jurisdiction is not raised by the parties.
The constitutional grant of original jurisdiction to this Court of all cases affecting consuls, does not prevent Congress from conferring original jurisdiction, in such cases, also, upon the subordinate courts of the Union.
The jurisdiction of the circuit courts of the United States of suits by citizens
against aliens is not defeated by the fact that the defendant is the consul of a foreign government.
The alienage of a defendant is not to be presumed from the mere fact that he is the consul, in this country, of a foreign government.
This action was brought in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiff below, Preston, was a citizen of that state, while the defendant was the consul at the port of New York for the Kingdoms of Norway and Sweden.
The object of the action was to recover damages for the alleged unlawful conversion by defendant to his own use of certain articles of merchandise. The answer denied the material allegations of the complaint, and, in addition, by way of counterclaim asked judgment against the plaintiff for certain sums. To the counterclaim a replication was filed, and a trial had before a jury, which resulted in a verdict in favor of plaintiff for $7,313.10. For that amount judgment was entered against the defendant. The defendant sued out this writ of error. The errors assigned with which the opinion of the court deals were the following:
"1st Assignment of error. That the plaintiff in error being before at the time of the commencement of this suit and ever since Consul of the Kingdoms of Norway and Sweden, he ought not, according to the Constitution and laws of the United States, to have been impleaded in the Circuit Court, but in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York, or in some of the district courts, and that the circuit court had not jurisdiction of this cause, and should have directed a verdict for said defendant."
"2d Assignment of error. That judgment was given for the defendant in error against the plaintiff in error, when by the laws of the United States, the judgment ought to have been given for the plaintiff in error against the defendant in error, it being admitted that the plaintiff in error was at the time of the transaction on the 8th of April, and continued to the trial, the Consul for Sweden and Norway at the port of New York, whereby the circuit court had no jurisdiction of the cause. "