Nelson v. Leland - 63 U.S. 48 (1859)
U.S. Supreme Court
Nelson v. Leland, 63 U.S. 22 How. 48 48 (1859)
Nelson v. Leland
63 U.S. (22 How.) 48
In a collision which took place between a steamboat and a flatboat on the Yazoo River, more than two hundred miles from its mouth where it falls into the Mississippi River, both vessels were in fault -- the flatboat because it had not one or more steady and fixed lights on one or more conspicuous parts of the boat, and because of its erroneous position in the river, and the steamboat, because the master, seeing a light ahead, did not stop his boat, and reverse her wheels until the locality of the light was clearly ascertained.
The collision tool place within the admiralty jurisdiction of the courts of the United States.
Upon a motion to dismiss an appeal upon the ground of a want of jurisdiction originally in the district court, the question of jurisdiction in that court is a proper one for appeal to this Court and for argument when the case is regularly reached. This Court has jurisdiction on such an appeal. The motion to dismiss upon that ground must therefore be overruled.
This was a case of collision between the steamboat Brigadier General R. H. Stokes and a flatboat called "Clear the Track," which occurred upon the Yazoo River, 200 miles above its mouth where it empties into the Mississippi, twelve miles above Vicksburg, and wholly within the State of Mississippi. Its waters are fresh, and there are no tides in it. The libel was filed by Nelson & Co., the consignees of the flatboat, and of 366 bales of cotton shipped on board of it.
The district court gave judgment in favor of the libellants for the sum reported by the commissioners, viz., $7,616.44. The circuit court was of opinion that the exception taken to the jurisdiction of the court was well founded, annulled the decree of the district court, and dismissed the libel with costs. The libellants appealed to this Court.
At December term, 1857, Mr. Gillet, of counsel for the appellees, moved the court to dismiss this appeal, "upon the ground of a want of jurisdiction originally in the district court." Upon which motion, MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TANEY delivered the opinion of the Court, that the question of jurisdiction in the lower court is a proper one for appeal to this Court, and for argument when the case is regularly reached, and that this Court have jurisdiction on such appeal. The motion to dismiss the appeal on that ground was therefore overruled.
At that term, Mr. Gillet and Mr. Cushing filed an elaborate brief against the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States in this case, but at that term the Court decided the case of Jackson v. Steamboat Magnolia, which is reported in 61 U. S. 20 How. 296. The points and authorities referred to in the brief were examined and ruled in that case, and therefore it is not necessary to state them in the present report.