Barney v. Baltimore City
Annotate this Case
73 U.S. 280 (1867)
U.S. Supreme Court
Barney v. Baltimore City, 73 U.S. 6 Wall. 280 280 (1867)
Barney v. Baltimore City
73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 280
1. Part owners or tenants in common in real estate of which partition is asked in equity have an interest in the subject matter of the suit, and in the relief sought, so intimately connected with that of their cotenants that if these cannot be subjected to the jurisdiction of the court, the bill will be dismissed.
2. The Act of February 28, 1839 (set forth in the case), has no application to suits where the parties stand in this position, but has reference, among others, to suits at law against joint obligors in contract, verbal or written.
3. A citizen of the District of Columbia cannot be a party to a suit in the federal courts where the jurisdiction depends on the citizenship of the parties.
4. Although the simple fact that a transfer or conveyance of the subject of controversy is made for the purpose of vesting an interest in parties competent to litigate in the federal courts does not defeat the jurisdiction,
if the transaction vests the real interest in the grantee or assignee, yet if the conveyance or assignment is colorable only, and the real interest remains in the grantor or assignor, the court cannot entertain jurisdiction of the case.
5. A decree in the circuit court dismissing a bill on the merits will be reversed here if the circuit court had not jurisdiction, and a decree of dismissal without prejudice directed.
The Judiciary Act gives jurisdiction to the circuit court in controversies "between citizens of different states," the District of Columbia, as it has been held, not coming within this term.
Another act -- one of February 28th, 1839 -- enacts thus:
"That where, in any suit at law or in equity, commenced in any court of the United States, there shall be several defendants, anyone or more of whom shall not be inhabitants of or found within the district where the suit is brought or shall not voluntarily appear thereto, it shall be lawful for the court to entertain jurisdiction, and proceed to the trial and adjudication of such suit between the parties who may be properly before it. But the judgment or decree rendered therein shall not conclude or prejudice other parties not regularly served with process, or not voluntarily appearing to answer; and the nonjoinder of parties who are not so inhabitants, or found within the district, shall constitute no manner of abatement or other objection to said suit. [Footnote 1]"
In this state of statutory law, Mary Barney, a citizen of Delaware, and one of the heirs of Samuel Chase, filed a bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for Maryland against the City of Baltimore and several individuals, coheirs with her, certain of them being citizens of Maryland, and certain others (William, Matilda, and Ann Ridgely), citizens of the District of Columbia, to have a partition of real estate of which it was alleged that the said Chase died intestate: and to have also an account of rents and profits, with other incidental relief.
In the progress of the suit, the bill was dismissed as to the
three Ridgelys, citizens of the District, and an amended bill filed, stating that they had conveyed their interest in the property in controversy to one Samuel Chase Ridgely (also a defendant in the case), and who was a citizen of Maryland, it being admitted by writing filed that this conveyance was made for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction of the case on the federal court, that it was without consideration, and that the grantee would, on request of the grantors, reconvey, to them. This Samuel Chase Ridgely made his will soon after the conveyance, devising the property to his three grantors, the District Ridgelys, and having died during the pendency of the suit, it went back to them. They then conveyed to one Proud in the same way as they had previously conveyed to their co-defendant, S. C., Ridgely, it being admitted that the conveyance was executed to remove a difficulty in the way of the exercise of the jurisdiction of the circuit court.
The circuit court dismissed the bill by a decree which on its face appeared to be a dismissal on the merits. This appeal was then taken.
Coming here, the case was elaborately argued on the merits. But a point of jurisdiction was raised and discussed previously. On this latter point, the case was disposed of by this Court; the question of merits not being reached.
On the point of jurisdiction, Messrs. W. Schley and W. H. Norris, for the City of Baltimore, appellees, contended that the appeal ought to be dismissed. Confessedly, citizens of the District could not be made parties to a suit in a Circuit Court of a state. Yet the three parties who here were such citizens, co-heirs with the complainant, were material parties to any bill for account or bill for partition. No complete decree could be made in their absence. The difficulty was sought to be remedied by the conveyances to S. C., Ridgely and Proud; but the grants not being real grants, could not aid the case. [Footnote 2]