Jones v. League
59 U.S. 76

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jones v. League, 59 U.S. 18 How. 76 76 (1855)

Jones v. League

9 U.S. (18 How.) 76

Syllabus

Formerly it was held in some of the circuit courts that the averment of citizenship in a different state from the one in which the suit was brought, and which it is necessary to make in order to give jurisdiction to the federal courts, must be proved on the general issue. But the rule now is that if the defendant disputes the allegation of citizenship which is made in the declaration, he must so plead in abatement.

Page 59 U. S. 77

The change of citizenship from one state to another must be made with a bona fide intention of becoming a citizen of the state to which the party removes.

It was not such a bona fide change where the plaintiff only made a short absence, and it appeared from the deed under which he claimed that he was in fact prosecuting the suit for the benefit of his grantor, who could not sue, receiving a portion of the land recovered as an equivalent for paying one third of the costs and superintending the prosecution of the suit.

In such a case, the federal court has no jurisdiction.

This was an action of trespass to try title brought by League against Jones and the other plaintiffs in error. League averred himself to be a citizen of Maryland in his original petition or declaration, and claimed title to a tract of land in the County of Refugio, on St. Joseph's Island in the State of Texas.

League claimed under a deed made to him on the 11th of May, 1850, by one John Power, a citizen of Texas, acting for himself and Hewetson and the representatives of Walker. This deed contained the following trust, namely:

That League would commence the necessary suits to try title; that if decided adversely, he would carry the cases to the Supreme Court of the United States; that when the litigation should be finally determined, he would convey two-thirds of the lands recovered to the grantors; that League should pay one third of the expenses of litigation heretofore incurred and all costs and expenses for the future; that League might make sales and divide the proceeds in the proportion of one third to himself and two thirds to the grantors &c.

The defendants pleaded four pleas in abatement to the jurisdiction of the court. The first plea set forth the substance of the above deed, and then alleged that Power was, at the time of the commencement of the suit, a citizen of Texas; that League was also a citizen of Texas, but went to Maryland for the purpose of setting up a pretense of being a citizen of that state, and after remaining less than four months in Maryland, he returned to Texas; that it was a fraudulent device to enable him to bring the suits which Power could not have brought &c.

The second and third pleas need not be noticed, as no question arose upon them in this Court. The fourth alleged that at the time of the commencement of the suit, League was a citizen of the State of Texas.

With respect to the first plea, the plaintiff demurred to it, and the demurrer was sustained by the court. On the fourth plea, the plaintiff took issue upon it, and a trial was had, which resulted, under the instructions of the court, which will presently be mentioned, in a verdict of the jury for the plaintiff. In order to understand the instructions, it is necessary to say that it was

Page 59 U. S. 78

admitted of record by the plaintiff, for the purposes of the trial, that he was a citizen of the Republic of Texas from 1838 up to the time of annexation of the United States, that he remained domiciled in the State of Texas; and that he was a citizen of the State of Texas, on the first day of July, A.D. 1850, and he waived the necessity of proving the above facts.

And thereupon the court instructed the jury that

"It is incumbent on the defendants on the issue made to show that the said plaintiff was a citizen of the State of Texas at the time of filing the petition in this cause; that the admission made by the plaintiff as above stated was, in law, presumptive proof that at the time of filing the petition, the said plaintiff was a citizen of the State of Texas; but that on the other hand the allegation in the petition, that the plaintiff was, at the time of filing the same, a citizen of the State of Maryland was prima facie or presumptive proof that he was, as alleged, a citizen of the said State of Maryland at that time, that these two contradictory presumptions, one arising from the plaintiff's admission, the other from the allegation in his petition, were equivalent in weight, and counterbalanced or destroyed each other, and that if there was no other testimony beside the admissions of the plaintiff adduced on the part of the defendants to show that the said plaintiff was, at the time of filing the petition, a citizen of the State of Texas, the jury would on this point find for the plaintiff, to each and every part of which charge except the first and second clauses thereof, to-wit, that the burden of proof was upon the defendants and that the plaintiff's admissions was presumptive proof of his being a citizen of Texas at the date of filing the petition the said defendants by their counsel excepted, and tender this their first bill of exceptions, which they pray may be signed, sealed, and made a part of the record in this cause, and the same is now done accordingly."

"[SEAL] JOHN C. WATROUS"

"January 28, 1854"

Other exceptions were taken in the progress of the trial, but it is not necessary to notice them.

Page 59 U. S. 79

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