Courtney v. Pradt
196 U.S. 89 (1905)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Courtney v. Pradt, 196 U.S. 89 (1905)

Courtney v. Pradt

No. 93

Argued December 9, 1904

Decided January 3, 1905

196 U.S. 89

Syllabus

Under § 5 a the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1891, the question of jurisdiction to be certified is the jurisdiction of the circuit court as a court of the United States, and not in respect of its general authority as a judicial tribunal.

The certificate of the lower court is an absolute prerequisite to the exercise of power here unless the record clearly and unequivocally shows that the court sends up for consideration the single and definite question of its jurisdiction as a court of the United States.

When a case has been removed into the circuit court of the United States on the ground of diversity of citizenship, that court is entitled to pass on all questions arising, including the question of jurisdiction over the subject matter in the state courts or the sufficiency of mesne process to authorize the recovery of personal judgment.

The right to remove for diversity of citizenship, as given by a constitutional act of Congress, cannot be taken away or abridged by state statutes, and, the case being removed, the circuit court has power to so deal with the controversy that the party will lose nothing by his choice of tribunals.

Merrit B. Atwater, a citizen of Wisconsin, and William C. Atwater, a citizen of Illinois, were partners, and in 1898 Merrit B. died testate, having appointed Louis A. Pradt, likewise a citizen of Wisconsin, his executor. The will was duly admitted to probate in Wisconsin, and Pradt duly qualified as executor, and has been and is acting as such. William C. Atwater was one of the legatees under the will.

The Atwater Land & Lumber Company was a corporation of Wisconsin, engaged in buying, owning, holding, and selling real estate in Kentucky, and Merrit B. Atwater at the time of his death, owned stock in that corporation, on which a dividend was declared August 30, 1901, which amounted to $4,757.37. W. C. Atwater was not a stockholder at the time of the declaration of the dividend, and had not been since 1893.

Page 196 U. S. 90

Courtney, a citizen of Kentucky, brought suit in the Circuit Court of Powell County, Kentucky, against Pradt, executor, and William C. Atwater, and procured a general order of attachment, under which the sheriff summoned the company to answer as garnishee by delivery of a copy of the attachment to the person designated by the company as its agent upon whom process could be executed, as required by the statutes of Kentucky in that behalf. There was no personal service on Pradt, executor, or on William C. Atwater, but a warning order was entered pursuant to statute.

Pradt, as executor, and William C. Atwater, filed their petition and bond in the state court for the removal of the cause to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Kentucky on the ground of diversity of citizenship, and it was removed accordingly. Pradt, executor, and William C. Atwater, entering their appearance in the circuit court for that purpose only, moved the court to dismiss the case "for want of jurisdiction to try same." On the same day, Pradt, executor, filed a special demurrer, assigning as causes, inter alia, that the court had no jurisdiction of the person or of the subject matter. And on that day, plaintiff moved to remand, no reasons being given. The circuit court overruled the motion to remand, sustained the motion to dismiss and the demurrer, and entered judgment dismissing the suit for want of jurisdiction. Two opinions were delivered, because further argument was permitted, and both are in the record. No certificate of the question of jurisdiction was applied for or granted, but an appeal was allowed to this Court, which was argued in due course, together with a motion to dismiss.

Page 196 U. S. 91

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