Mills v. Brown
41 U.S. 525

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mills v. Brown, 41 U.S. 16 Pet. 525 525 (1842)

Mills v. Brown

41 U.S. (16 Pet.) 525

Syllabus

The Supreme Court has not jurisdiction on a writ of error to the supreme court of a state in which the judgment of the court was not necessarily given on a point which was presented in the case involving the constitutionality of an act of the Legislature of the State of Illinois asserted to violate a contract.

The Supreme Court will not, when requested by the counsel for plaintiffs and defendants in error in a case in which it has not jurisdiction to affirm or reverse the judgment of the court from which the same has been brought by a writ of error to a state court, examine into the questions in the case and decide upon them. Consent will not give jurisdiction. When the act of Congress has so carefully and cautiously restricted the jurisdiction conferred upon this Court over the judgments and decrees of the state tribunals, the Court will not exercise jurisdiction in a different spirit.

The plaintiffs in error instituted a suit in the Circuit Court of the State of Illinois, claiming, by a bill filed in that court, to hold, under an act of the Legislature of Illinois, an exclusive right to erect a ferry on the Mississippi River from land owned by them to the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The defendants in the suit denied the right thus set up and claimed the right to set up another ferry, from Illinois to St. Louis, under other acts of the Legislature of Illinois. The case was, after a decree of the circuit court in favor of the defendants, carried by the plaintiff by appeal to the supreme court of the state, where judgment in favor of the defendants was affirmed. The plaintiffs prosecuted this writ of error on the ground that the act of the Legislature of Illinois, passed subsequent to the act which had authorized the plaintiffs to erect their ferry, was a violation of the contract made with the plaintiffs by the act of assembly.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Illinois, which was in favor of the defendants, was given upon other questions presented in the case besides those on the contract made by the first act of the assembly of Illinois. The counsel for the plaintiffs in error proposed to the court

Page 41 U. S. 526

that a decision upon the whole merits of the case should be made, although it might be considered that the Court had not jurisdiction of the case on the writ of error, the questions in the case being of great importance and the parties being willing and desirous to have them decided by this Court.

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