Bowker v. United States
186 U.S. 135 (1902)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Bowker v. United States, 186 U.S. 135 (1902)

Bowker v. United States

No. 247

Argued April 30, May 1, 1902

Decided May 19, 1902

186 U.S. 135

Syllabus

Cases in which the jurisdiction of the district or circuit courts of the United States is in issue can only be brought directly to this Court after final judgment on the whole case.

When a libel and cross-libel are filed in admiralty, they should be heard together, and if the cross-libel is dismissed for want of jurisdiction before the whole case is heard and determined, this Court cannot take jurisdiction of the order of dismissal under section five of the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1891.

The case is stated by the district court, in substance, as follows: on November 3, 1899, a libel was filed on behalf of the United States in the District Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey against the schooner William H. Davenport, her tackle, apparel, and furniture, and against all persons intervening therein, in case of collision, civil and maritime, seeking to recover the sum of $5,000 damages alleged to have been sustained by the lighthouse tender Azalea in a

Page 186 U. S. 136

collision with that schooner on October 2, 1899, off Cornfield Point lightship in Long Island sound. It was averred in the libel that the collision was in no way caused by the fault or negligence of those on board the lighthouse tender Azalea, but that it was solely due to the carelessness and negligence of those in charge of the schooner William H. Davenport in certain particulars stated. The libel concluded with the formal prayer that process might issue in due form of law against the schooner, her tackle, apparel, and furniture; that all persons interested might be cited to appear and answer, and that the schooner might be condemned and sold to pay libellant's claim with interest and costs, "and that the court will otherwise right and justice administer in the premises." Process in due form was issued against the schooner, and on November 8, 1899, the marshal filed his return certifying that, on November 4, he had made due attachment of the schooner, and that the vessel was then in his custody. November 22, 1899, F. S. Bowker, managing owner, filed a claim to the schooner on behalf of her owners, a stipulation for costs and a stipulation for value, and thereupon the schooner was released from custody and restored to the possession of her owners. The claimant, Bowker, filed his answer to the libel December 11, 1899, denying that the collision was caused or contributed to by those in charge of the schooner, alleging that the collision and the damage resulting therefrom were caused wholly by the fault of the steamer Azalea and of those in charge of her in certain particulars stated, and concluding with the prayer that the libel be dismissed with costs. December 29, 1899, Bowker, for and on behalf of himself and his co-owners, filed a cross-libel against the United States seeking to recover the sum of $6,000 damages alleged to have been sustained by the schooner and by her cargo in said collision. It was alleged in the cross-libel that the collision was wholly due to the negligence and fault of the steamer Azalea and of those in charge of her, the particulars being set forth, and the prayer of the cross-libel asked

"that a citation, according to the course and practice of this honorable court in causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, may issue to the said respondents above named, citing and admonishing them to

Page 186 U. S. 137

appear and answer all and singular the matters aforesaid, and that this honorable court shall pronounce for the damages, with interest and costs, and will grant a stay of all further proceedings in the action of the said respondent brought by it in this honorable court against the schooner William H. Davenport by the filing of a libel against said schooner, on November 3, 1899, until security be given by said respondent, pursuant to the admiralty rules of the Supreme Court of the United States and the practice of this honorable court, to respond for the damages claimed in this cross-libel, and that this honorable court will give to the cross-libellants such other and further relief as in law and justice he may be entitled to receive, this said action being a counterclaim arising from the same cause of action for which the original libel was filed against the said William H. Davenport."

Citation was issued and served on the United States attorney for the district, who was the proctor of record for the libellant in the original suit. The United States attorney filed a notice of motion to quash the citation, February 14, 1900, and a motion to that effect was argued by counsel. December 17, 1900, the district court filed its written decision, holding that the cross-libel could not be maintained because the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the cause or to enter a decree as prayed for against the United States, whereupon and on that day the court entered a decree that the citation be quashed and that the cross-libel be dismissed with costs. 105 F. 398. The cross-libellant thereupon appealed to this Court, and the appeal was allowed on the question of jurisdiction. The district court made a statement of the facts, to which a copy of the record was attached, and certified five questions in respect of jurisdiction under the cross-libel to this Court for decision.

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