Madruga v. Superior Court
346 U.S. 556 (1954)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Madruga v. Superior Court, 346 U.S. 556 (1954)

Madruga v. Superior Court California in and for the

County of San Diego

No. 35

Argued October 19-20, 1953

Decided January 18, 1954

346 U.S. 556

Syllabus

Eight individuals who owned undivided interests aggregating 85% in a ship which was certificated under the maritime laws of the United States instituted a proceeding in a California state court at San Diego, the home port of the vessel, for sale of the vessel and partition of the proceeds pursuant to a California statute. The defendant was an individual who owned a 15% interest in the vessel, and personal service was had upon him by summons. The state court's decision that it had jurisdiction was upheld by the State Supreme Court, which declined to issue a writ of prohibition.

Held:

1. Under the federal admiralty power, United States District Courts have jurisdiction to order vessels sold for partition. Pp. 346 U. S. 557-560.

2. The jurisdiction of the federal courts was not exclusive, and the California court was "competent" to give this partition remedy, and had jurisdiction of the cause of action. Pp. 346 U. S. 560-561.

(a) The federal admiralty jurisdiction is "exclusive" only as to those maritime causes of action begun and carried on as proceedings in rem, and the proceedings in this partition case were not in rem in the admiralty sense. Pp. 346 U. S. 560-561.

(b) The state court in this proceeding acts only upon the interests of the parties over whom it has jurisdiction in personam, and it does not affect the interests of others in the world at large, as it would if this were a proceeding to enforce a lien. P. 346 U. S. 561.

3. The California court's taking of jurisdiction of this partition suit at the instance of the majority shipowners does not run counter to any established rule of admiralty, nor do the circumstances justify the establishment of a national judicial rule controlling partition of ships. Pp. 346 U. S. 561-564.

4. The State Supreme Court's refusal to issue a writ of prohibition was a final judgment reviewable here under 28 U.S.C. § 1257. P. 557, n 1.

40 Cal.2d 65, 251 P.2d 1, affirmed.

Page 346 U. S. 557

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