United States v. Jahn - 155 U.S. 109 (1894)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Jahn, 155 U.S. 109 (1894)
United States v. Jahn
Argued and submitted October 23, 1894
Decided November 5, 1894
155 U.S. 109
A circuit court of the United States has jurisdiction to hear and determine, on appeal from the Board of General Appraisers, the questions of law and of fact involved in a decision of that Board sustaining the action of a collector of customs in exacting a charge for gauging molasses under the provisions of Rev.Stat. § 3023.
Giving to the Act of March 3, 1591, 26 Stat. 826, c. 517, to establish circuit courts of appeals, taken as a whole, a reasonable construction, it is, held:
(1) That if the jurisdiction of the circuit court is in issue and decided in favor of the defendant, as that disposes of the case, the plaintiff should have the question certified and take his appeal or writ of error directly to this Court.
(2) That if the question of jurisdiction is in issue, and the jurisdiction sustained, and then judgment or decree is rendered in favor of the defendant on the merits, the plaintiff who has maintained the jurisdiction, must appeal to the circuit court of appeals, where, if the question of jurisdiction arises, the circuit court of appeals may certify it.
(3) That if the question of jurisdiction is in issue, and the jurisdiction sustained, and judgment on the merits is rendered in favor of the plaintiff, then the defendant can elect either to have the question certified and come directly to this Court or to carry the whole case to the circuit court of appeals, and the question of jurisdiction can be certified by that court.
(4) That if in the case last supposed the plaintiff has ground of complaint in respect of the judgment he has recovered, he may also carry the case to the circuit court of appeals on the merits, and this he may do by way of cross-appeal or writ of error if the defendant has taken the case there, or independently, if the defendant has carried the case to this Court on the question of jurisdiction alone, and in this instance the circuit court of appeals will suspend a decision upon the merits until the question of jurisdiction has been determined.
(5) That the same observations are applicable where a plaintiff objects to the jurisdiction and is, or both parties are, dissatisfied with the judgment on the merits.
The docket title of this case being wrong, it is corrected by this Court.
August 15, 1890, G. A. Jahn & Co. imported into New York some casks of molasses, which on the 28th of that month they withdrew from warehouse and exported to Montreal for the benefit of the drawback. Upon such withdrawal and exportation, the collector of customs at New York exacted a charge of ten cents per cask for gauging the molasses under the provisions of section 3023 of the Revised Statutes. The importers protested against the charge for gauging, claiming that it had been abolished by the twenty-second section of the act entitled "An act to simplify the laws in relation to the collection of the revenue," approved June 10, 1890. 26 Stat. 131, 140, c. 407.
The matter was duly taken before the Board of General Appraisers, which sustained the action of the collector, and the importers appealed to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. The circuit court reversed the decision of the Board of General Appraisers, and held that the gauging charge exacted by the collector had been abolished. Thereupon the United States appealed to the circuit court of appeals, and assigned for error that the circuit court erred in reversing the decision of the Board of General Appraisers, for the reason that the decision of the board was final and conclusive, and that the circuit court had no jurisdiction to make any decree or order in said proceeding. The jurisdiction of the circuit court was first challenged upon the appeal. The circuit court of appeals certified to this Court the question:
"Whether the United States circuit court had jurisdiction to hear and determine the questions of law and of fact involved in said decision of the Board of General Appraisers."