Iowa Central Railway Co. v. Bacon
236 U.S. 305 (1915)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Iowa Central Railway Co. v. Bacon, 236 U.S. 305 (1915)

Iowa Central Railway Co. v. Bacon

No. 130

Submitted January 19, 1915

Decided February 23, 1915

236 U.S. 305

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF IOWA

Syllabus

If the suit be one of which the circuit court can rightfully take jurisdiction, the state court loses jurisdiction on the filing of the petition and bond, and subsequent proceedings in that court are void; but if, on the face of the record, including the petition for removal, it does not appear that the suit is removable, the state court is not bound to surrender its jurisdiction, and may proceed as if no application for removal had been made. Traction Co. v. Mining Co.,196 U. S. 239.

Although the petition may allege that plaintiff sustained damages in excess of two thousand dollars, if the prayer for recovery is for less than that sum, the jurisdictional amount is not involved, and the filing of a petition and bond does not effect a removal of the case.

Although the federal court may have made orders continuing a case in which a petition and bond had been filed, and even dismissed it for want of prosecution, if the question of its authority had never been presented to or decided by it, the state court is not bound to respect such orders as conclusive of the question of jurisdiction, and so held in a case which, on the face of the record, was not removable, as the amount claimed was less than $2,000, although the damages were stated in the petition as having exceeded that sum. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. v. McCabe,213 U. S. 207, distinguished.

157 Ia. 493 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the jurisdiction of the state and federal courts and the effect of an attempted removal

Page 236 U. S. 306

of the case to the federal court where the amount in controversy was less than $2,000, are stated in the opinion.

Page 236 U. S. 308

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The defendant in error, as administrator of Martin W. Lockhart, deceased, brought an action on September 22, 1905, in the District Court of Iowa in and for the County of Mahaska to recover damages for the alleged wrongful killing of his intestate. In the petition it was alleged that the estate had been damaged in the sum of $10,000, but judgment was asked only for the sum of $1,990. On September 30, 1905, the railway company filed its answer, and on October 2, 1905, within the time required by law, filed a petition for removal of the cause to the United States Circuit Court in and for the Southern District of Iowa, on the ground of diversity of citizenship, alleging that the amount in controversy exceeded, with interest and costs, the sum of $2,000. The petition was accompanied by a bond.

The district court of Mahaska County did not enter any order directing the removal of the case, but, on the March 29, 1906, there was filed in the office of the Clerk of the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of Iowa a transcript of the proceedings in the case. After the filing of the transcript in the federal court, the case was continued from term to term until, on the December 5, 1908, an order to notice said case for trial at the next term or show cause why it should not be dismissed was entered, and the clerk was directed to mail and serve a copy of said order on the parties. On May 11, 1909, the circuit court of the United States entered an order dismissing the cause

Page 236 U. S. 309

for want of prosecution at the plaintiff's costs, and the defendant was given judgment for its costs.

Afterwards, on the September 19, 1910, the plaintiff filed in the office of the District Court of Mahaska County an amended and substituted petition. On the October 6, 1910, the district court entered an order denying the application of the defendant for a removal of the cause to the United States court on the ground that the amount in controversy, exclusive of interest and costs, was less than $2,000. The application for removal was the one filed on October 2, 1905. On February 28, 1911, the railway company filed a motion to dismiss the case and to strike from the files all pleadings filed subsequent to the 1st of September, 1905, on the ground that the case had been removed to the United States circuit court. Attached to the motion was a certified copy of the record in the United States court. This motion was denied, and afterwards the case went to trial in the state court, and upon verdict of the jury a judgment was rendered against the railway company. The case was taken to the Supreme Court of Iowa, and that court affirmed the judgment of the lower court. 157 Ia. 493. The case was brought here, and the federal question presented is whether the state court had lost its jurisdiction by the attempted removal to the United States circuit court.

It was, of course, essential to the removal of the case that the amount in controversy should have been sufficient to give the federal court jurisdiction -- that is to say, $2,000, exclusive of interest and costs. The state court had authority to determine the effect of the prayer to the petition, and it decided that, under the petition, no more than the amount prayed for could be recovered in the action, notwithstanding the statement that the estate had suffered damage in the sum $10,000. It is contended that, nevertheless, the proceedings in this case show that the case was removed to the United States circuit court, and, inasmuch

Page 236 U. S. 310

as the state court lost jurisdiction, its subsequent proceedings are null and void.

In Traction Company v. Mining Company,196 U. S. 239, this Court said, citing many previous cases, that certain principles relating to the removal of causes had been settled by the former adjudications of the Court. One is that, if the suit be one in which the circuit court could rightfully take jurisdiction, then, upon the filing of the petition for removal in due time, with sufficient bond, the case is in law removed, and the state court loses jurisdiction to proceed further, and all subsequent proceedings therein are void. Furthermore, that if, upon the face of the record, including the petition for removal, the suit does not appear to be removable, then the state court is not bound to surrender its jurisdiction, and may proceed as if no application for removal had been made. See also the previous cases in this Court cited in the Traction Company case at 196 U. S. 244 and 245.

Applying these principles, it is apparent that the case now under consideration was not, upon the face of the record, a removable one. The prayer for recovery was for $1,990, and consequently the amount required to give jurisdiction to the federal court was not involved. The filing of the petition and bond did not therefore effect a removal of the case.

But it is contended that this case is governed by Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. v. McCabe,213 U. S. 207, because the United States court had determined, as it had authority to, that the case was a removable one, and that, so long as that judgment stood, the state court had lost its jurisdiction, and had no power to proceed further in the case. In the McCabe case, where the state court refused to order the removal of the case upon a transcript being filed, the federal court held that it had jurisdiction in the case, and proceeded to render a judgment therein, and when this adjudication was brought to the attention of the state

Page 236 U. S. 311

court, it refused to give it force, and proceeded to adjudge the case upon its own view of jurisdiction. This Court held that the state court was bound to give weight to the judgment of the federal court deciding that it had jurisdiction, and that the judgment, until reversed, was conclusive upon the state court as to the jurisdiction of the federal court.

But no such case is presented here. The federal court, it is true, more than once made an order continuing the case, and finally dismissed it for want of prosecution. The question of its authority to take jurisdiction was never presented or decided in the federal court, and there is nothing in the orders made conclusive of that question in such sense that the state court was bound to respect it.

As the record, upon its face, made no case for removal, the state court was right in retaining its jurisdiction and proceeding to determine and adjudge the case. The judgment is

Affirmed.

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