Mississippi Publishing Corp. v. Murphree
326 U.S. 438 (1946)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mississippi Publishing Corp. v. Murphree, 326 U.S. 438 (1946)

Mississippi Publishing Corp. v. Murphree

No. 234

Argued December 12, 1945

Decided January 2, 1946

326 U.S. 438

Syllabus

Respondent, a resident of the northern district of Mississippi, brought suit in the federal district court for that district against petitioner, a Delaware corporation having an office and place of business in the southern district of Mississippi, to recover damages in an amount exceeding $3,000 for libel published in the southern district. The suit was begun by service of summons in the southern district by the United States marshal upon the agent designated by petitioner to receive service of process within the State.

Held:

1. The case being of a civil nature, the amount in controversy exceeding $3,000, and the parties being of diverse citizenship, the district court had jurisdiction of the subject matter. P. 326 U. S. 440.

2. Since the sole ground of federal jurisdiction was diversity of citizenship and suit was brought in the district of the plaintiff's residence, there was no want of venue under § 51 of the Judicial Code. P. 326 U. S. 441.

3. Petitioner was properly brought before the district court for the northern district and subjected to its judgment in the suit by service of summons on petitioner's agent in the southern district, since this was authorized by Rules 4(d)(3) and 4(f) of the Rules of Civil Procedure. P. 326 U. S. 443.

4. As thus applied, Rule 4(f) of the Rules of Civil Procedure is in harmony with the Enabling Act under which it was promulgated, and with the statutes fixing venue and the jurisdiction of the district courts. P. 326 U. S. 445.

5. By consenting to service of process upon its agent residing in the southern district, petitioner rendered itself "present" there for purposes of service. P. 326 U. S. 442.

6. By appointing an agent to receive service, petitioner consented to suits within the State in courts which apply the law of the State, whether they be state or federal courts. P. 326 U. S. 443.

7. The fact that this Court promulgated the Rules of Civil Procedure as formulated and recommended by the Advisory Committee does not foreclose consideration of their validity, meaning, or construction, but, in ascertaining their meaning, the construction given to them by the Committee is of weight. P. 326 U. S. 444.

Page 326 U. S. 439

8. Rule 4(f) was devised to permit service of process anywhere within a State in which the district court issuing the process is held, and where the State embraces two or more districts. P. 326 U. S. 444.

9. It was adopted with particular reference to suits against a foreign corporation having an agent to receive service of process resident in a district within the State other than that in which the suit is brought. P. 326 U. S. 444.

10. Rule 4(f) does not conflict with Rule 82 or the statutes fixing venue and jurisdiction of the district courts, since it does not enlarge or diminish the venue or jurisdiction of the district courts, but serves only to implement the jurisdiction over the subject matter which Congress has conferred, by providing a procedure by which the defendant may be brought into court at the place where Congress has declared that suit may be maintained. P. 326 U. S. 444.

11. Rule 4(f) does not "abridge, enlarge, nor modify the substantive rights of any litigant," since it is a rule of procedure, and not of substantive right. P. 326 U. S. 445.

12. The prohibition in the Enabling Act of any alteration of substantive rights of litigants obviously was not addressed to such incidental effects as necessarily attend the adoption of new rules of procedure upon the rights of litigants who, agreeably to rules of practice and procedure, have been brought before a court authorized to determine their rights. P. 326 U. S. 445.

149 F.2d 138, affirmed.

CERTIORARI, post, p. 702, to review reversal of a judgment dismissing a suit on the ground that the venue was not properly laid.

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