Hartog v. Memory
116 U.S. 588 (1886)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hartog v. Memory, 116 U.S. 588 (1886)

Hartog v. Memory

Submitted December 4, 1885

Decided February 1, 1886

116 U.S. 588

Syllabus

When the jurisdiction of a circuit court of the United States over the parties by reason of citizenship appears on the face of the record, and no issue is joined respecting it, evidence not pertinent to the issues made by the pleadings cannot be introduced solely for the purpose of making out a case for dismissal by reason of the absence of the proper citizenship.

When a circuit court of the United States is led to suspect from any cause that its jurisdiction has been imposed upon, collusively or otherwise, it may protect itself against fraud or imposition by an inquiry made of its own motion in such manner as it may direct, and by such further action thereafter as justice may require.

The evidence on which a circuit court acts in dismissing a suit for want of jurisdiction must not only be pertinent either to the issue made by the parties or to the inquiry instituted by the court, but it must also appear of record if either party desires to invoke the appellate jurisdiction of this Court for the review of the order of dismissal.

This was a writ of error brought under § 5 of the Act of March 3, 1875, c. 137, 18 Stat. 370, for the review of an order dismissing a suit begun in the circuit court. The record showed that on the 19th of September, 1884, William Hartog sued Henry Memory in an action of assumpsit for a breach of a contract to deliver property sold. In the declaration, Hartog was described as a citizen of the Kingdom of Holland, and Memory as a citizen of Illinois. On the 8th of October, Memory filed three pleas: 1, general issue; 2, statute of limitations of Illinois; and, 3, limitations laws of Holland, where the cause of action accrued. On the 8th of November, Hartog obtained a commission for the taking of testimony in Holland, and Memory was ruled to file cross-interrogatories by the following Monday. On the 9th of May, 1885, Memory withdrew his plea of limitation by the laws of Holland, and Hartog filed a replication to the plea of the statute of limitations of Illinois. The case was on the same day tried with a jury. On the trial,

Page 116 U. S. 589

the plaintiff introduced

"evidence to sustain the issues on his behalf, which evidence also shows that said plaintiff was a subject of the King of Holland, and also shows that said defendant has been doing business in the City of Chicago for several years."

"And thereupon said defendant offered himself as a witness to maintain the issues on his behalf in said cause, and during the progress of his examination he was asked by his counsel the following questions, and gave the following answers:"

"Q. Are you a citizen of the United States, Mr. Memory?"

"A. No, sir."

"Q. Of what dominion or Kingdom are you a citizen?"

"A. I am a citizen of Great Britain, sir."

"And thereupon said plaintiff, by his counsel, cross-examined said Memory as follows:"

"Q. How long have you resided and done business in Chicago?"

"A. About from eight to ten years, I suppose."

"Q. Where did you do business before that?"

"A. I did business for a short time in New York."

"It also appeared that defendant was in Holland twice in 1879, and that the alleged contract was entered into there."

"Which was all the evidence introduced by either party on the question of citizenship or residence."

The jury, on the 11th of May, brought in a verdict against Memory for $2,497. A motion for new trial was then entered. On the 1st of June, before judgment on the verdict, the defendant filed the following motion:

"And now comes the defendant, by his attorney, and it appearing that the defendant is not a citizen of the United States, or of any state, but a citizen and subject of Great Britain, and that all the parties to this suit are aliens, and that the court has no jurisdiction in this cause, the said defendant moves that this case be dismissed for want of jurisdiction in this Court."

This motion was granted, and the suit dismissed June 10th. 23 F. 835. To reverse that order this writ of error was brought.

Page 116 U. S. 590

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