Petri v. Commercial National Bank of Chicago
142 U.S. 644 (1892)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Petri v. Commercial National Bank of Chicago, 142 U.S. 644 (1892)

Petri v. Commercial National Bank of Chicago

No. 1071

Submitted January 4, 1892

Decided January 18, 1892

142 U.S. 644

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS

Syllabus

A national bank located in one state, may bring suit against a citizen of another state in the circuit court of the United States for the district wherein the defendant resides by reason alone of diverse citizenship.

The Court stated the case as follows:

The Commercial National Bank of Chicago, a national banking association duly organized under the laws of the United States in that behalf and located in Illinois, brought suit, May 6, 1890, in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Texas against A. C. Petri and Oswald Petri, citizens of the State of Texas, and doing business in that state under the firm name and style of A. C. Petri & Brother to recover the amount of several drafts, held by the bank, drawn by Meyer & Sons Company, a corporation of Illinois, on the defendants and accepted by them.

The defendants demurred on the ground that the circuit court was without jurisdiction to entertain the suit, and also interposed certain defenses not drawn in question here. The demurrer was overruled and final judgment given in favor of plaintiff for the sum of $3,328.66, with interest and costs, whereupon the defendants prosecuted a writ of error from this Court to review the action of the circuit court upon the question of jurisdiction.

Page 142 U. S. 647

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question is whether a national bank located in one state may bring suit against a citizen of another state in the circuit court of the United States for the District wherein the defendant resides, by reason alone of diverse citizenship.

National banks are empowered to sue and be sued, complain and defend, in any court of law and equity, as fully as natural persons. Rev.Stat. § 5136. The first National Banking Act -- that of February 25, 1863, 12 St. c. 58, pp. 665, 681 -- provided in § 59 that suits by and against banks organized thereunder might be brought in any "circuit, district, or territorial court of the United States held within the district in which such association may be established," and by the Act of June 3, 1864, c. 106, § 57, 13 St. 99, 116, there was added to this: "Or in any state, county, or municipal court in the county or city in which said association is located, having jurisdiction in similar cases." Both these provisions were carried into § 5198 of the Revised Statutes by the amendatory Act of February 18, 1875, c. 80, 18 St. 316, 320.

Page 142 U. S. 648

Following section 11 of the Judiciary Act, the first subdivision of § 629, Rev.Stat., conferred jurisdiction on the circuit courts of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity where the matter in dispute, exclusive of costs, exceeded the sum or value of five hundred dollars, and the suit was between a citizen of the state where it was brought and a citizen of another state, and by subdivision ten, jurisdiction was given

"of all suits by or against any banking association established in the district for which the court is held, under any law providing for national banking associations."

Under section one of the Act of March 3, 1875, determining the jurisdiction of circuit courts of the United States and regulating the removal of causes from state courts, 18 St. 470, the circuit courts had original cognizance of suits arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States as well as of those in which there were controversies between citizens of different states, and by section two, jurisdiction by removal in like cases was conferred.

Suits by or against national banks might therefore be brought or removed upon the ground of diverse citizenship, or of subject matter, since, as they were created by Congress, and could acquire no right, make no contract, and bring no suit which was not authorized by a law of the United States, a suit by or against them was necessarily a suit arising under the laws of the United States. Osborn v. Bank, 9 Wheat. 738, 22 U. S. 823; Leather Manufacturers' Bank v. Cooper,120 U. S. 778, 120 U. S. 781; Pacific Railroad Removal Cases,115 U. S. 1, 115 U. S. 5 Sup.Ct. Rep. 1113. And, of course, national banks as well as state banks and individuals might bring or remove suits otherwise arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. By the proviso to the fourth section of the Act of Congress of July 12, 1882, entitled "An act to enable national banking associations to extend their corporate existence, and for other purposes," it was provided

"that the jurisdiction for suits hereafter brought by or against any association established under any law providing for national banking association, except suits between them and the United States, or its officers and agents, shall be the same as, and not

Page 142 U. S. 649

other than, the jurisdiction for suits by or against banks not organized under any law of the United States which do or might do banking business where such national banking associations may be doing business when such suits may be begun, and all laws and parts of laws of the United States inconsistent with this proviso be, and the same are hereby, repealed."

22 St. 162, 163. Hence the jurisdiction of the circuit courts over suits by or against national banks could no longer be asserted on the ground of their federal origin, as they were placed in the same category with banks not organized under the laws of the United States. Leather Manufacturers' Bank v. Cooper,120 U. S. 778, 120 U. S. 781; Whittemore v. Amoskeag Bank,134 U. S. 527, 134 U. S. 530.

So far as the mere source of its incorporation rendered suits to which a national bank might be a party cognizable by the circuit courts, that was taken away, but the jurisdiction which those courts might exercise in such suits when arising between citizens of different states or under the Constitution or laws of the United States, except in that respect, remained unchanged.

The fourth section of the Act of Congress of March 3, 1887, 24 St. 552, c. 373, as corrected by the Act of August 13, 1888, 25 St. 433, c. 866, is as follows:

"SEC. 4. That all national banking associations established under the laws of the United States shall, for the purposes of all actions by or against them, real, personal, or mixed, and all suits in equity, be deemed citizens of the states in which they are respectively located, and in such cases the circuit and district courts shall not have jurisdiction other than such as they would have in cases between individual citizens of the same state."

"The provisions of this section shall not be held to affect the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States in cases commenced by the United States, or by direction of any officer thereof, or cases for winding up the affairs of any such bank."

25 St. 436.

In view of the language of the second clause of the first branch of this section, it is contended that the federal courts

Page 142 U. S. 650

cannot exercise the same jurisdiction in respect of national banks, by reason of diverse citizenship, as they possess in controversies between individual citizens of different states.

The rule that every clause in a statute should have effect, and one portion should not be placed in antagonism to another, is well settled, and it is also held that it is the duty of the court to ascertain the meaning of the legislature from the words used and the subject matter to which the statute relates, and to restrain its operation within narrower limits than its words import if the court is satisfied that the literal meaning of its language would extend to cases which the legislature never intended to include in it. Brewer's Lessee v. Blougher, 14 Pet. 178: Market Co. v. Hoffman,101 U. S. 112.

The act of 1887 largely superseded the previous legislation relating to the jurisdiction in general of the circuit courts. Under the first section, jurisdiction of all suits of a civil character, and involving a given sum or value, arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States, or in which there might be a controversy between citizens of different states, was retained, and so far as national banks were concerned, the jurisdiction could be exercised whether dependent upon the subject matter or the citizenship.

Out of abundant caution, the first clause of the first branch of the fourth section provided that national banks, for the purposes of actions by or against them, should be deemed citizens of the states in which they were respectively located, and this involved the right to sue or be sued by a citizen of another state in the United States courts. Hence, as has been well said, if the second clause were to be construed as contended, it would in effect take away what had just been recognized. First National Bank v. Forest, 40 F. 705.

But had the section terminated with the first clause, the question might have arisen as to whether a national bank could, because of its federal character, bring suits in the federal courts or remove causes thereto, as had been originally the case, and, apparently to obviate this, the clause was added subjecting these banks to the same rules applicable to citizens of the states where they were located. No reason is perceived

Page 142 U. S. 651

why it should be held that Congress intended that national banks should not resort to federal tribunals as other corporations and individual citizens might. The fact that there are cases between individual citizens of the same state in which the circuit courts might have jurisdiction, as where the case arises under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, or the controversy relates to lands claimed under grants of different states, so far from sustaining the contention that the phraseology in question was designed to limit the jurisdiction as to national banks to such cases, justifies the conclusion that it is only to them that the second clause applies. The use of the word "between" is perhaps open to criticism, but it seems to us clear that the clause was intended to have, and must receive, the same effect and operation as that of the proviso to the fourth section of the Act of July 12, 1882 -- that is to say that the federal courts should not have jurisdiction by reason of the subject matter other than they would have in cases between individual citizens of the same state, and so not have jurisdiction because of the federal origin of the bank. But jurisdiction dependent upon diversity of citizenship ship was provided for by the first section and the first clause of the first branch of the fourth section of the act of 1887, and no limitation in that regard was intended.

The demurrer was rightfully overruled, and the judgment is

Affirmed.

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