Commercial & Railroad Bank v. Slocomb, Richards & Co.
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39 U.S. 60 (1840)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Commercial & Railroad Bank v. Slocomb, Richards & Co., 39 U.S. 14 Pet. 60 60 (1840)
Commercial & Railroad Bank v. Slocomb, Richards & Company
39 U.S. (14 Pet.) 60
An action was brought in the Circuit Court of Mississippi against the Commercial & Railroad Bank of Vicksburg, Mississippi, by parties who were citizens of the State of Louisiana. The defendants pleaded in abatement, by attorney, that they are an aggregate corporation, and that two of the stockholders resided in the State of Mississippi. The affidavit to the plea was sworn to by the cashier of the bank, before the "Deputy clerk." It was not entitled as of any term of the court. The plaintiffs demurred to the plea. Held that the appearance of the defendants in the circuit court by attorney was proper, and that if any exceptions existed to this form of the plea, they should have been urged to the receiving of it when it was offered, and are not causes of demurrer. Held that the Circuit Court of Mississippi had no jurisdiction of the case.
The artificial being, a corporation aggregate, is not as such a citizen of the United States; yet the courts of the United States will look beyond the mere corporate character to the individuals of whom it is composed, and if they were citizens of a different state from the party sued, they are competent to sue in the courts of the United States; but all the corporators must be citizens of a different state from the party sued. The same principle applies to the individuals composing a corporation aggregate when standing in the attitude of defendants, which does when they are in that of plaintiffs.
The act of Congress passed February 28, 1839, entitled "an act in amendment of the acts respecting the judicial system of the United States," did not contemplate a change in the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, as it regards the character of the parties as prescribed by the Judiciary Act of 1789, as that act has been expounded by the Supreme Court of the United States, which is that each of the plaintiffs must be capable of suing, and each of the defendants capable of being sued.
Cora A. Solocomb, Robert Richards, and Romanzo W. Montgomery, styling themselves citizens of Louisiana trading under the firm of Slocomb, Richards & Company, sued the President, Directors, and Company of the Commercial & Railroad Bank of Vicksburg, styling them citizens of the State of Mississippi, living and resident in the Southern District thereof, being a banking company, incorporated by the Legislature of the State of Mississippi, located in the Southern District aforesaid. The suit was upon a certificate of deposit for three thousand five hundred and forty-one dollars and thirty-four cents.
To the declaration of the plaintiffs, averring as above stated, the defendants put in the following plea:
"The said defendants by attorney come and say, that this Court ought not to have or take further cognizance of the action aforesaid, because they say that they are a corporation aggregate, and were at the time this suit was instituted, and yet so continue to be, and that the corporators, stockholders, or company, are composed of citizens of other and different states, to-wit, that William M. Lambeth, and William E. Thompson, citizens of the State of Louisiana,
are now, and were at the time this suit was instituted, stockholders and corporators therein, and this,"
The following affidavit was subjoined to the plea:
"James Roach, acting cashier for the Commercial & Railroad Bank of Vicksburg, the defendants in the above case, makes oath and says the above plea is true in substance and fact."
"Sworn to, and subscribed before me this 4 November, 1839."
"GEORGE W. MILLER, Deputy Clerk"
To this plea the plaintiffs demurred, and assigned the following special causes, to-wit:
1. The said plea in abatement is not properly entitled to any term of this Court.
2. The affidavit in support of said plea is not sufficient, nor is the same properly attested.
3. The matters set forth in said plea are not sufficient to abate the plaintiffs' suit.
The demurrer was sustained and judgment rendered for the plaintiffs.
The defendants prosecuted this writ of error.