185 U.S. 148 (1902), 171, Erie Railroad Company v. Purdy

Docket Nº:No. 171
Citation:185 U.S. 148, 22 S.Ct. 605, 46 L.Ed. 847
Party Name:Erie Railroad Company v. Purdy
Case Date:April 07, 1902
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 148

185 U.S. 148 (1902)

22 S.Ct. 605, 46 L.Ed. 847

Erie Railroad Company

v.

Purdy

No. 171

United States Supreme Court

April 7, 1902

Argued and submitted March 6, 1902

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

Where a party, drawing in question in this Court a state enactment as invalid under the Constitution of the United States or asserting that the final judgment of the highest court of a state denied to him a right or immunity under the Constitution of the United States, did not raise such question or specially set up or claim such right or immunity in the trial court, this Court cannot review such final judgment and hold that the state judgment was unconstitutional, or that the right or immunity so claimed had been denied by the highest court of the state, if that court did nothing more than decline to pass upon the federal question because not raised in the trial court, as required by the state practice.

If, upon examining the record, this Court had found that a federal question was properly raised or that a federal right or immunity was specially claimed in the trial court, then the jurisdiction of this Court would not have been defeated by the mere failure of the highest court of the state to dispose of the question so raised or to pass upon the right or immunity so claimed.

The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Twenty-one actions were brought by Purdy against the Erie Railroad Company, a corporation of New York, to recover penalties under what is known as the Mileage Book Act of that state, being chapter 1027 of the laws of 1895, which took effect June 15, 1895, as amended by chapter 835 of the Laws of 1896, which took effect May 22, 1896.

The complaint and answer in each case were the same.

Each answer alleged,

upon information and belief, that the

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said act, known as chapter 835 of the Laws of 1896, is unconstitutional and void because it is in violation of the provisions of the Constitution of the United States which commit to Congress the sole power to regulate commerce between the several states, and that it is unconstitutional and void because it is in violation of various other provisions of the Constitution of the United States and of the Constitution of the State of New York.

This was the only reference, special or general, in the answers to the Constitution of the United States.

The twenty-one actions were consolidated into one action, subject to the plaintiff's right to recover in each one as if they had been separately tried.

At the conclusion of the evidence in behalf of the plaintiff, the railroad company moved for a nonsuit in each action upon various grounds, the only one that can be regarded as specially setting up or claiming a federal right or immunity being the fifth, which stated that, if the state legislation under which the defendant sought to recover penalties was intended to apply to the railway lines of defendant, the acts of the legislature were void "because they undertake to interfere with or regulate commerce among the states and the acts of Congress in such case made and provided."

It was not assigned as a ground of nonsuit that the statute in question was in violation "of various other provisions of the Constitution of the United States." Apparently that ground of defense was abandoned at the trial.

The trial court granted the motion for nonsuit in the last eleven cases, and directed a verdict in favor of the plaintiff for $50 each in the first ten cases, and ordered that the exceptions of each party...

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