When the decision of a state court is in favor of a right or
privilege claimed under a statute of the United States, this Court
has no jurisdiction to review it.
The controversy in this case arose from the conflicting claims
of the relator and the respondent to the office of Sheriff of
Buchanan County, Missouri. The proceeding was originally instituted
by an information in the nature of a quo warranto,
by the prosecuting attorney, in the Circuit Court of Buchanan
County, to test the right of respondent Andriano to assume the
duties of sheriff. The information was filed upon the relation of
John H. Carey, who had been holding the office and discharging its
duties for the two preceding years, and who, under the state law,
had a right to hold it until his successor should be duly elected,
commissioned, and qualified. It alleged in substance that while the
relator was in office, having the right thereto, the respondent,
without any legal warrant, ground, or right whatever, entered into
and assumed to discharge part of the duties of such office, and
further averred that he was to that extent an unlawful usurper of
the rights belonging to relator, a sheriff of such county. Waiving
the issue of a writ, respondent appeared, and by his answer, which
by agreement was treated as a return, set up that he had received
at the general election in November, 1886, the majority of the
votes cast thereat for the office of sheriff of said county, and
thereupon the governor of the state had issued to him his
commission, and be had given bond and duly qualified as such
sheriff. He further alleged that at the time of such election, he
was, and ever since had been, a citizen of the United States, a
resident of the said county, and duly qualified under the
constitution and laws of the state to hold the office. To this
Page 138 U. S. 497
return there was filed a reply, denying that respondent was, or
ever had been, such citizen.
The case was tried upon the following stipulation of facts:
It was admitted by the parties that Joseph Andriano, the
respondent, was born in Heidelberg, Baden, now in the German
Empire, in October, 1841; that he came to the United States with
his father and mother in 1849, and the family settled in Buchanan
County, Missouri, where respondent has ever since resided, and
where his father and mother, who were, from a long time before
respondent's birth, during their joint lives, husband and wife,
resided up to the time of their deaths, respectively; that his
father and mother both lived until long after the year 1855; that
respondent and his father and mother were born citizens of Baden,
and so continued up to the time they came to the United States, and
that Albert Andriano, the respondent's said father, was, by proper
proceeding in the Circuit Court of the State of Missouri within and
for Buchanan County, duly naturalized under and pursuant to the
laws of the United States, and thereby became a citizen of the
United States on the 4th day of October, A.D. 1854.
It was also admitted that all the statements contained in the
information were true, and that respondent was guilty of the acts
therein set forth, provided he (respondent) was not a citizen of
the United States at the time of the general election in November,
1886, but that if he were such citizen, then, while said acts were
admitted to have been performed by respondent, they were not
unlawfully but rightfully performed by him. It was also admitted
that the respondent himself never took any steps or did anything to
wards becoming naturalized as a citizen of the United States.
Upon the issue thus formed by the pleadings and stipulation, the
circuit court found the respondent guilty as charged in the
information, and rendered a judgment ousting him from the office,
so far as he had been exercising or assuming to exercise the duties
thereof. From this judgment respondent appealed to the supreme
court of the state, wherein the case was heard and the judgment
reversed, and respondent restored to all things which he had lost
by reason of the said judgment.
Page 138 U. S. 498
To reverse this decision of the supreme court, relator sued out
this writ of error.
MR. JUSTICE BROWN, after stating the facts as above, delivered
the opinion of the court.
We are confronted upon the threshold of this case with the
inquiry whether there is a federal question involved; if not, the
only disposition we can make of it is to dismiss it for want of
jurisdiction. The object of the proceeding is to try the respective
titles of the relator and the respondent to the office of Sheriff
of Buchanan County, Missouri. Respondent relies upon the fact that
he received a majority of votes cast at a popular election for the
office. Relator claims to have been in possession of the office
since December 1, 1884, performing all the duties imposed upon him
by law, and, as to respondent's election, insists that the same is
void under the Constitution of Missouri, which declares (article 8,
sec. 12) that
"No person shall be elected or appointed to any office in this
state, civil or military, who is not a citizen of the United States
and who shall not have resided in this state one year next
preceding his election or appointment."
He claims further that under the laws of Missouri (Rev Stat.
sec. 3330), he is entitled to hold the office until a successor is
duly elected, commissioned, and qualified. In support of his claim
that respondent is not a citizen, he relies upon the fact that he
was born in Germany, and is therefore prima facie
alien. To this respondent replies, admitting his foreign birth, and
also that he had never been naturalized under the laws of the
United States, but claiming that, under section 4 of the Act of
Congress of April 14, 1802, 2 Stat. 153, he became and was a
citizen by the naturalization of his father. This act, which is
reproduced in Rev.Stat. sec. 2172, provided
"That the children of persons duly naturalized under any of the
laws of the United States, or who, previous to the passing of any
Page 138 U. S. 499
upon that subject by the government of the United States, may
have become citizens of anyone of the said states under the laws
thereof, being under the age of twenty-one years at the time of
their parents being so naturalized or admitted to the rights of
citizenship, shall, if dwelling in the United States, be considered
as citizens of the United States, and the children of persons who
now are or have been citizens of the United States shall, though
born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, be
considered as citizens,"
etc. Here is clearly a right or privilege claimed by respondent
under a statute of the United States within the meaning of
Rev.Stat. sec. 709, and had the judgment of the Supreme Court of
Missouri been adverse to his claim, there could be no doubt of his
right to a writ of error from this Court to review its ruling. It
is insisted, however, that the relator has no right to a review of
the ruling in favor of respondent, as he claimed no right or
privilege personal to himself or to his own status as a citizen
from such statute. The question thus presented is whether the right
or privilege must necessarily be personal to the plaintiff in
error, or whether he is not entitled to a review where such right
or privilege is asserted by his opponent, and the decision is in
favor of such opponent and adverse to himself. While there is some
force in the argument that the right of review in cases involving
the construction of a federal statute should be mutual, the act
limits such right to cases where the state court has decided
the title, right, privilege, or immunity set up or
claimed under the statute. Now the only claim made under the
federal statute in this case is by the respondent. The difficulty
with the position of the relator is that he asserts no right under
the statute, but, to establish the alleged alienage of the
respondent, relies solely upon the fact that the latter was born
abroad. To this respondent replies, admitting his foreign birth but
claiming that the statute makes him a citizen, and the state court
has adopted his view.
The object of the present Judiciary Act was not to give a right
of review wherever the validity of an act of Congress was drawn in
question, but to prevent the courts of the several
Page 138 U. S. 500
states from impairing or frittering away the authority of the
federal government by giving a construction to its statutes adverse
to such authority. Of course if the construction given by the state
court to the act under which the right is claimed be favorable to
such right, no such reason exists for a review by this Court. As
stated by Chief Justice Taney in Commonwealth Bank v.
14 Pet. 56, 39 U. S. 58
"the power given to the Supreme Court by this act of Congress
was intended to protect the general government in the free and
uninterrupted exercise of the powers conferred on it by the
Constitution, and to prevent any serious impediment from being
thrown in its way while acting within the sphere of its legitimate
authority. The right was therefore given to this Court to reexamine
the judgments of the state courts where the relative powers of the
general and state government had been in controversy and the
decision had been in favor of the latter."
The question is by no means a novel one in this Court. The case
of Fulton v.
16 Pet. 149, was an action of ejectment,
in which the lessor of the plaintiff made title under a certificate
issued to him as assignee of Jefferson College, the trustees of
which college were authorized by an act of Congress to relinquish
certain lands which had been reserved for their use. Defendant
offered testimony to show that the certificate was fraudulently
obtained, that its authority had been denied by the Commissioner of
the Land Office, and consequently that it did not confer on the
lessor of the plaintiff a valid legal title upon which he could
recover in ejectment. These questions were decided by the state
court in favor of the right claimed by the plaintiff, and the
defendant took a writ of error from this Court. It was held that,
as the decision of the state court was in favor of the right
claimed, this Court had no jurisdiction.
The case of Linton v.
12 How. 423, was an action upon certain
promissory notes, to which the defendant pleaded a discharge under
the bankruptcy law. Objections were taken to the validity of the
discharge, but they were overruled by the court, and judgment
entered for the defendant. It was held the plaintiff had no right
to a review in this Court.
Page 138 U. S. 501
"Undoubtedly," says Chief Justice Taney,
"the defendant, in pleading his discharge under the bankrupt
law, claimed a right or exemption under a law of Congress. But in
order to give jurisdiction, something more is necessary; the
judgment of the state court must be against the right claimed."
Like rulings were made in Gordon v.
3 Cranch 268; Strader v.
9 How. 261; Burke v.
19 How. 388; Hale v.
22 How. 144; Reddall v.
24 How. 420, and Ryan v.
4 Wall. 603.
None of the cases cited by the relator involves the question
here presented, and the writ of error must be
Dismissed for the want of jurisdiction.