196 U.S. 239 (1905), 362, Madisonville Traction Company v. St. Bernard Mining Company

Docket Nº:No. 362
Citation:196 U.S. 239, 25 S.Ct. 251, 49 L.Ed. 462
Party Name:Madisonville Traction Company v. St. Bernard Mining Company
Case Date:January 16, 1905
Court:United States Supreme Court

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196 U.S. 239 (1905)

25 S.Ct. 251, 49 L.Ed. 462

Madisonville Traction Company


St. Bernard Mining Company

No. 362

United States Supreme Court

January 16, 1905

Submitted November 28, 1904




In regard to the removal of cases, the following principle, have been settled:

If the case be a removable one, that is, if the suit, in its nature, be one of which the circuit court could rightfully take jurisdiction, then,

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upon the filing of a petition for removal, in due time, with a sufficient bond, the case is, in law, removed, and the state court in which it is pending will lose jurisdiction to proceed further, and all subsequent proceedings in that court will be void.

After the presentation of a sufficient petition and bond to the state court in a removable case, it is competent for the circuit court, by a proceeding ancillary in its nature -- without violating § 720, Rev.Stat., forbidding a court of the United States from enjoining proceedings in a state court -- to restrain the party against whom a cause has been legally removed from taking further steps in the state court.

If, upon the face of the record, including the petition for removal, a suit does not appear to be a removable one, then the state court is not bound to surrender its jurisdiction, and may proceed as if no application for removal had been made.

Under the Judiciary Act of 1887-1888, a suit cannot be removed from a state court unless it could originally have been brought in the circuit court of the United States.

A state cannot, by any statutory provisions, withdraw a suit in which there is a controversy between citizens of different states from the cognizance of the federal courts.

A proceeding brought by a Kentucky railroad company in the county court under §§ 835-839, Kentucky Statutes, to condemn lands for a public use, valued at over $2,000, belonging to a corporation which is a citizen of another state, is a suit involving a controversy to which the judicial power of the United States extends within the meaning of the judiciary clauses of the Constitution and of which the circuit court has original cognizance under § 1 of the Judiciary Act of 1887, and may be removed to the circuit court of the United States.

In the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred upon it of controversies between citizens of different states, a circuit court of the United States is for every practical purpose a court of the state in which it sits, and will enforce the rights of the parties according to the law of that state taking care, as a state court must, not to infringe any right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States. And, in a case of condemnation, it would proceed under the sanction of, and enforce, the state law so far as it was not unconstitutional.

It is fundamental in American jurisprudence that private property cannot be taken by the government, National or state, except for purposes which are of a public character, although such taking be accompanied by compensation to the owner.

It is for the state, primarily and exclusively, to declare for what local public purposes private property, within its limits, may be taken upon compensation to the owner, as well as to prescribe a mode in which it may be condemned and taken. But the state may not prescribe any mode of taking private property for a public purpose and of ascertaining the compensation to be made therefor which would exclude from the

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jurisdiction of a circuit court of the United States a condemnation proceeding which in its essential features is a suit involving a controversy between citizens of different states.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Madisonville Traction Company, a Kentucky corporation, having by its charter authority to construct an electric railroad, filed its application in the County Court of Hopkins County, in that commonwealth, to condemn for its use certain lands belonging to the Saint Bernard Mining Company, a Delaware corporation engaged in mining coal -- the traction company being styled in the application as plaintiff, and the mining company as defendant.

[25 S.Ct. 252] The application was made under the Kentucky statutes relating to the condemnation of lands. The nature of those proceedings, whether judicial or not, appears from certain provisions of those statutes, which may be summarized as follows:

Any company authorized to construct a railroad, if "unable to contract with the owner of any land or material necessary for its use for the purpose thereof," may file in the office of the clerk of the county court a description of such land or material, and have commissioners appointed to assess the damages which the owner is entitled to receive. Kentucky Stat. § 835.

The commissioners are required to make their award of damages in writing, giving the names of the owners, and whether nonresidents of the state, infants, of unsound mind, or married women. Kentucky Stat. § 836.

It is made the duty of the clerk of the court, upon application

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of the company, to issue process against the owners to show cause why the report should not be confirmed, and make such orders as to nonresidents and persons under disability as are required by the Civil Code of Practice in actions against them in the circuit court. Kentucky Stat. § 837.

At the first regular term, "after the owners shall have been summoned the length of time prescribed by the Civil Code of Practice before an answer is required," the court must examine the report, and pass upon it. Kentucky Stat. § 838.

If exceptions are filed by either party, a jury must be empaneled to try the issues of fact, and judgment rendered in conformity to the verdict, if sufficient cause to the contrary be not shown. Either party may appeal to the circuit court, the appeal to be tried de novo.

Upon the confirmation of the report of the commissioners or the assessment of damages by the court, as provided, and the payment to the owners of the amount due, as shown by the report of the commissioners when confirmed, or as shown by the judgment of the court when the damages are assessed by it, and all costs adjudged to the owner, the railroad company becomes entitled to take possession of the land and material, and to use the same for the purpose for which it was condemned as fully as if the title had been conveyed to it. But when an appeal is taken from the judgment of the county court by the company, it is not entitled to take possession of the land or material condemned until it pays into court the damages assessed and all costs. Kentucky Stat. § 839.

The commissioners appointed by the county court in the above proceeding awarded $100 as damages to be paid to the mining company.

Process having issued, the mining company, before any action was taken upon the report, filed its petition and bond for the removal of the case into the circuit court of the United States, alleging, among other things, that the value of the matter in dispute, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeded $2,000. The petition for removal distinctly alleged, as the

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ground of removal, that the two companies were corporations of different states.

The sufficiency of the bond was not disputed. But the county court refused to recognize any right of removal, and the Kentucky corporation was about to proceed in the prosecution of its case in that court, despite the application for removal. Thereupon the Delaware corporation filed in the circuit court of the United States a complete transcript of the proceedings in the state court.

Subsequently, the present original suit in equity was instituted in the federal court by the mining company against the traction company. The bill, repeating the allegations in the petition for removal as to the diverse citizenship of the two corporations, showed that, notwithstanding what had been done to have the cause removed, from the state court, the traction company was about to proceed to have the lands condemned in the case instituted in the county court. Among other things, the bill alleged that plaintiff denied the right of the traction company to have the lands in question condemned, and averred that the report of the commissioners was insufficient in law; that the commissioners acted improperly, unfairly, and unfaithfully in their viewing of the land, in the preparation of their report, and in awarding damages; that $100 was wholly inadequate as compensation, and was assessed and given under the influence of passion and prejudice, or some other illegal motive; that the land sought to be taken was worth, intrinsically, a great deal more than that amount; that the incidental damages done to the property of plaintiff in the construction of the road (which damages, under the laws of Kentucky, the said commissioners should have taken into consideration, and assessed, but did not, § 836) exceeded $2,000; that the plaintiff's property and business will not be benefited in the least degree by the construction or prudent operation of the railroad, and that

it is proposed to deprive it of over nine acres of its land, which, through its location, is valued at and is worth over $2,500, and is so situated that such

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deprivation will irreparably injure and damage its remaining land.

The relief asked in the present suit was that the traction company be restrained and enjoined from further prosecuting the case [25 S.Ct. 253] in the county court, or taking any further steps therein.

The traction company demurred to the bill, one of the grounds of demurrer being that the circuit court was without jurisdiction or authority, under the Constitution and laws of the United States, to grant the injunction asked for, or any other...

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