Corporation of New Orleans v. Winter - 14 U.S. 91 (1816)
U.S. Supreme Court
Corporation of New Orleans v. Winter, 14 U.S. 1 Wheat. 91 91 (1816)
Corporation of New Orleans v. Winter
14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 91
ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
A citizen of a territory of the United States cannot sue a citizen of a state in the courts of the United States, nor can those courts take jurisdiction by other parties being joined who are capable of suing in those courts, for the jurisdiction cannot be sustained unless each individual be entitled to claim that jurisdiction.
The defendants in error commenced their suit in the District Court for the District of Louisiana to recover the possession and property of certain lands in the City of New Orleans,
claiming title as the heirs of Elisha Winter, deceased, under an alleged grant from the Spanish government, in 1791, which lands, it was stated, were afterwards reclaimed by the Baron de Carondelet, Governor of the Province of Louisiana, for the use of fortifications. One of the parties, petitioners in the court below, was described in the record as a citizen of the State of Kentucky and the other as a citizen of the Mississippi Territory. The petitioners recovered a judgment in the court below, from which a writ of error was brought.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court, and after stating the facts, proceeded as follows:
The proceedings of the Court therefore is arrested in limine by a question respecting its jurisdiction. In the case of Hepburn & Dundas v. Ellzey, 2 Cranch 445, this Court determined on mature consideration that a citizen of the District of Columbia could not maintain a suit in the circuit court of the United States. That opinion is still retained.
It has been attempted to distinguish a territory from the District of Columbia, but the Court is of opinion that this distinction cannot be maintained. They may differ in many respects, but neither of them is a state in the sense in which that term is used in the Constitution. Every reason assigned for the opinion of the Court that a citizen of Columbia was not capable of suing in the courts of the United States under the Judiciary Act is equally applicable to a citizen of a territory. Gabriel Winter, then,
being a citizen of the Mississippi Territory, was incapable of maintaining a suit alone in the Circuit Court of Louisiana. Is his case mended by being associated with others who are capable of suing in that court? In the case of Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 3 Cranch 267, it was decided that where a joint interest is prosecuted, the jurisdiction cannot be sustained unless each individual be entitled to claim that jurisdiction. In this case it has been doubted, whether the parties might elect to sue jointly or severally. However this may be, having elected to sue jointly, the Court is incapable of distinguishing their case, so far as respects jurisdiction, from one in which they were compelled to unite. The Circuit Court of Louisiana therefore had no jurisdiction of the cause, and its judgment must on that account be reversed and the petition dismissed.