KETLAND v. THE CASSIUS
2 U.S. 365 (1796)

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U.S. Supreme Court

KETLAND v. THE CASSIUS, 2 U.S. 365 (1796)

2 U.S. 365 (Dall.)

Ketland, qui tam.
v.
The Cassius

Circuit Court, Pennsylvania District

October Term, 1796

An information that had been exhibited against the Cassius, as a vessel illegally out-fitted within the jurisdiction of the United States,* came on to be argued upon a suggestion filed ex-officio by the Attorney of the District, in pursuance of directions from the President, stating, that the vessel was the public

Page 2 U.S. 365, 366

property of the French Republic, and, therefore, not liable to seizure and forfeiture. But soon after the argument was opened on the merits, a doubt was intimated by the Court, whether the Circuit Court had jurisdiction in this case? And the counsel were requested, in the first instance, to discuss that point.

Lewis, for the informant, contended, that the District Court had not, and that this court had, jurisdiction. He referred to the 9th, 11th, 21st and 22nd sections of the Judicial act; and from comparing these endeavoured to establish his general position. He said that the 9th section does not give the jurisdiction to the District Court; for an information in rem, is not within the first clause of the section, which gives cognizance of crimes and offences to that Court; nor is it within the clause creating an exclusive original cognizance of all civil cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, for this is not a civil case of that description, but a proceeding to enforce a forfeiture for an offence; and it is certainly not included in the clause of seizures under the laws of impost, navigation, or trade. With respect to the clause giving the District Court, 'exclusive original cognizance of all seizures on land, or other waters, &c. and of all suits for penalties and forfeitures incurred under the laws of the United States,' it must, in order to preserve consistency in the different parts of the law, be understood to mean exclusive of the State Courts, and not of the Circuit Court. Penalties of a specific sum recovered by civil suits in personam are here intended to be distinguished, from proceedings in rem; and in the former, but not in the latter, case, a jurisdiction is given to the District Court. The accuracy of this construction may, likewise, be strongly inferred considering, that an appeal is given from the District to the Circuit Court, in suits in personam, but not in suits in rem; and, therefore, if the opposite doctrine prevailed, the Circuit Court would be ousted of all jurisdiction, original, as well as appellate. If it should be said, that this seizure is of a vessel exceeding ten tons burthen, made on navigable waters, within the District, and that it is consequently embraced by the clause which gives jurisdiction to the District Court in the case of seizures; it is enough to answer, that the operation of that clause is confined to seizures under laws of impost, navigation, or trade. But the forfeiture is distinct from the seizure; and where a penalty is given, as well as a forfeiture incurred, for the breach of any law (which is the case in the present instance, and is frequently the case in other instances) a suit for the penalty may be instituted in the District Court, and an information, to enforce the forfeiture, may be filed in the Circuit Court. Then, the 11th section of the Judicial act gives to the Circuit Court, 'exclusive cognizance of all crimes and offences, cognizable [2 U.S. 365, 367]


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