Mexican National R. Co. v. Davidson
157 U.S. 201 (1895)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mexican National R. Co. v. Davidson, 157 U.S. 201 (1895)

Mexican National Railroad Company v. Davidson

Nos. 880, 876

Submitted February 4, 1895

Decided March 18, 1895

157 U.S. 201

Syllabus

Under § 2 of the Act of March 3, 1887, c. 373, 24 Stat. 552, as corrected by the Act of August 13, 1888, c. 866, 25 Stat. 433, the jurisdiction of a circuit court of the United States, on removal by the defendant of an action from a state court, is limited to such suits as might have been brought in that court under the first section.

A question of jurisdiction cannot be waived.

The Mexican National Construction Company, a citizen of Colorado, assigned certain causes of action against the Mexican

Page 157 U. S. 202

National Railroad Company, also a citizen of Colorado, to Davidson, a citizen of New York, September 11, 1891, and, on the same day, Davidson began his action of attachment in the supreme court of the State of New York against the railroad company, which in due season removed the cause into the United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of New York. Davidson, the plaintiff, recovered judgment for $151,832.41, upon a trial before the court without a jury. From this judgment the railroad company sued out its writ of error to the circuit court of appeals of the United States for the Second Circuit, and Davidson also sued out a writ of error on the ground that he should have had judgment for a larger amount.

The circuit court of appeals certified to this Court in each case the following questions:

"First. Whether or not the United States Circuit Court of the Eastern District of New York had jurisdiction to hear and determine the first cause of action."

"Second. Whether or not the United States Circuit Court of the Eastern District of New York had jurisdiction to hear and determine the second cause of action."

These questions were preceded by a statement of facts by that court setting forth, among other things, that plaintiff sought to recover upon two causes of action:

"1st. To recover, with interest from the 15th of October, 1886, the amount of a debt owing the construction company by the Mexican National Railway Company on 15th October, 1886, which the defendant, in consideration of the transfer to it of certain railroad property, agreed to pay with other debts up to the extent of a certain fund which was put into its hands, and which was sufficient in amount for that purpose. The other debts had been fully paid before suit brought."

"2d. To recover $1,731, damages sustained by the construction company (being its payment of the reasonable fees of an umpire and stenographer) through the breach by the defendant of an agreement between it and the construction company to adjust by arbitration the controversy over the claim first mentioned. "

Page 157 U. S. 203

And that among the assignments of error duly filed in that court by the Mexican National Railroad Company were these:

"That the court, upon the trial, entertained jurisdiction of this cause; that the court, upon the trial, entertained jurisdiction of the first alleged cause of action set forth in the complaint; that the court, upon the trial, entertained jurisdiction of the second alleged cause of action set forth in the complaint."

But that the record showed that no question as to the jurisdiction of the circuit court was raised upon the trial, and no such question was referred to in the findings or opinion of the circuit court.

The portions of sections one and two of the Act of March 3, 1887, as corrected by the Act of August 13, 1888, defining the jurisdiction of district and circuit courts of the United States, bearing upon the questions involved, are as follows:

"SEC. 1. That the circuit courts of the United States shall have original cognizance, concurrent with the courts of the several states, of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity, . . . in which there shall be a controversy between citizens of different states, in which the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive of interest and costs, the sum or value aforesaid, . . . and no civil suit shall be brought before either of said courts against any person by any original process or proceeding in any other district than that whereof he is an inhabitant, but where the jurisdiction is founded only on the fact that the action is between citizens of different states, suit shall be brought only in the district of the residence of either the plaintiff or the defendant; nor shall any circuit or district court have cognizance of any suit, except upon foreign bills of exchange, to recover the contents of any promissory note or other chose in action in favor of any assignee, or of any subsequent holder if such instrument be payable to bearer and be not made by any corporation, unless such suit might have been prosecuted in such court to recover the said contents if no assignment or transfer had been made. . . ."

"SEC. 2. . . . Any other suit of a civil nature at law

Page 157 U. S. 204

or in equity of which the circuit courts of the United States are given jurisdiction by the preceding section and which are now pending, or which may hereafter be brought in any state court may be removed into the circuit court of the United States for the proper district by the defendant or defendants therein, being nonresidents of that state. . . ."

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