The Hine v. Trevor,
71 U.S. 555 (1866)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Hine v. Trevor, 71 U.S. 4 Wall. 555 555 (1866)

The Hine v. Trevor

71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 555


1. The doctrine of the case of The Genesee Chief, 12 How. 443, that the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts as granted by the Constitution as not limited to tidewater, but extends wherever vessels float and navigation successfully aids commerce approved and affirmed.

2. The grant of admiralty powers to the district courts of the United States by the ninth section of the Act of September 24, 1789, is coextensive with this grant in the Constitution as to the character of the waters over which it extends.

Page 71 U. S. 556

3. The Act of February 26, 1845, is a limitation of the powers granted by the act of 1789 as regards cases arising upon the lakes and navigable waters connecting said lakes, in the following particulars:

1. It limits the jurisdiction to vessels of twenty tons burden and upwards, enrolled and licensed for the coasting trade, and which are employed in commerce and navigation, between ports and places in different states.

2. It grants a jury trial, if either party shall demand it.

3. The jurisdiction is not exclusive, but is expressly made concurrent with such remedies as may be given by state laws.

4. The grant of original admiralty jurisdiction by the act of 1789, including as it does all cases not covered by the act of 1845, is exclusive not only of all other federal courts, but of all state courts.

5. Therefore state statutes which attempt to confer upon state courts a remedy for marine torts and marine contracts by proceedings strictly in rem are void because they are in conflict with that act of Congress except as to cases arising on the lakes and their connecting waters.

6. These statutes do not come within the saving clause of the ninth section of the act of 1789, concerning a common law remedy.

7. But this rule does not prevent the seizure and sale by the state courts of the interest of any owner or part owner in a vessel by attachment or by general execution when the proceeding is a personal action against such owner, to recover a debt for which he is personally liable.

8. Nor does it prevent any action which the common law gives for obtaining a judgment in personam against a party liable in a marine contract or a marine tort.

A collision occurred between the steamboats Hine and Sunshine on the Mississippi River at or near St. Louis in which the latter vessel was injured. Some months afterwards, the owners of the Sunshine caused the Hine to be seized while she was lying at Davenport, Iowa, in a proceeding under the laws of that state, to subject her to sale in satisfaction of the damages sustained by their vessel. The Code of Iowa, under which this seizure was made, gives a lien against any boat found in the waters of that state for injury to person or property by said boat, officers or crew &c.; gives precedence in liens; authorizes the seizure and sale of the boat, without any process against the wrongdoer, whether owner or master, and saves the plaintiff all his

Page 71 U. S. 557

common law rights, but makes no provision to protect the owner of the vessel.

The owners of the Hine interposed a plea to the jurisdiction of the state court. The point being ruled against them, it was carried to the supreme court of the state, where the judgment of the lower court was affirmed, and by the present writ of error this Court was called upon to reverse that decision.

To comprehend the argument fully, it is here well to state that Congress had, prior to the date of this proceeding, enacted:

1. In 1789, September 24th, by the Judiciary Act, that the district court of the United States

"shall have exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, including all seizures under the laws of impost, navigation, or trade of the United States, where the seizures are made on waters which are navigable from the sea by vessels of ten or more tons burden, . . . saving to suitors in all cases the right of a common law remedy where the common law is competent to give it."

2. In 1845, by statute of the 26th February of that year,

"That the district courts of the United States shall have, possess, and exercise the same jurisdiction in matters of contract and tort arising in, upon, or concerning steamboats and other vessels of twenty tons burden and upwards, enrolled and licensed for the coasting trade, and at the same time employed in business of commerce and navigation, between ports and places in different states and territories upon the lakes and navigable waters connecting said lakes as is now possessed and exercised by the said courts in cases of the like steamboats and other vessels, employed in navigation and commerce upon the high seas, or tidewaters within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States."

The question in the present case was how far the jurisdiction of the district courts of the United States, in cases of admiralty arising on our navigable inland waters, is exclusive, and how far the state courts might exercise jurisdiction concurrently.

Page 71 U. S. 561

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