232 U.S. 318 (1914), 34, Harrison v. St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company

Docket Nº:No. 34
Citation:232 U.S. 318, 34 S.Ct. 333, 58 L.Ed. 621
Party Name:Harrison v. St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company
Case Date:February 24, 1914
Court:United States Supreme Court

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232 U.S. 318 (1914)

34 S.Ct. 333, 58 L.Ed. 621



St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company

No. 34

United States Supreme Court

February 24, 1914

Submitted November 4, 1913




The judicial power of the United States, as created by the Constitution and provided for by Congress pursuant to constitutional authority, is wholly independent of state action and cannot be directly or indirectly destroyed, abridged, limited or rendered inefficacious by exertion of state authority.

The right conferred by law of the United States to remove a cause pending in a state to a federal court on compliance with the federal law is paramount and free from restraint or penalization by state action, and whether the right exists and has been properly exercised are federal questions determinable by the federal courts free from limitation or interference by state power.

A state statute which forbids a resort to the federal courts on the ground of diversity of citizenship and punishes by extraordinary penalties any assertion of a right to remove a case under the federal law and attempts to divest the federal courts of their power to determine whether the right exists is unconstitutional as an attempted exertion of state power over the judicial power of the United States.

A state cannot destroy the right to remove causes to the federal courts by imposing arbitrary conditions as to state citizenship which render it impossible for one entitled to the right to avail of it.

A suit by a nonresident against officers of a state to enjoin the enforcement of a state statute which violates constitutional rights of complainant is not a suit against the state within the prohibition of the Eleventh Amendment.

A state statute which deprives those entitled thereto of a federal right is not made constitutional by the fact that it does not discriminate, but operates on all alike.

The Oklahoma statute of May 26, 1908, forbidding foreign corporations

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from asserting any citizenship other than of that state and providing for the revocation and forfeiture of the charter of any corporation filing a petition for removal of a cause from the state to the federal court, is unconstitutional as to corporations doing an interstate business as an attempt to restrain and penalize the assertion of a federal right. Doyle v. Continental Ins. Co., 94 U.S. 535, and Security Co. v. Pruitt, 202 U.S. 246, distinguished.

Where the plain text of a state statute leaves no doubt that it is an attempt to prevent removal of causes to the federal court, it will not be construed as a mere exercise of reasonable control over corporations.

When the construction of a state statute given by the state court and the state officers is plainly right, this Court will not give the statute a different construction because, under the one so given, the statute is flagrantly repugnant to the Constitution.

The St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company, a corporation chartered under the laws of Missouri, and a citizen and resident of that state, owned, controlled, or operated, for the purpose of interstate and intrastate commerce, many hundreds of miles of railway in Oklahoma, and extending into adjoining states and beyond. These lines existed and were operated by the company, some, it may be, before the Territory of Oklahoma was organized, and most, if not all, before Oklahoma was endowed with statehood. The lines composing the system originated in various charters, some enacted by Congress, accompanied with grant of land, and others by territorial grant. The unified system resulted from foreclosures, consolidations, etc. In 1908, the company was sued by a citizen and resident of Oklahoma, in a court of that state. On the ground of diversity of citizenship, a petition and bond in due form and seasonable time were filed by the company for removal to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Oklahoma. What action was taken by the state court does not appear, but presumably the petition was denied, the following document having been issued by the Secretary of State:

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Revocation of Charter of St. Louis & San Francisco

Railroad Company in Oklahoma

GUTHRIE, OKLAHOMA, August 29th, 1908.

In the district court

GERTRUDE GOODE, Administratrix of the Estate of

Frank R. Goode, Deceased, Plaintiff,



Corporation, Defendant

[34 S.Ct. 334] Petition for Removal and to the Circuit Court

of the United States


Comanche County:

Having received due and legal notice from J. T. Johnson, judge of the District Court of Comanche County, that the above-named corporation defendant, St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company, has filed a petition for removal to the United States court, a certified copy of which is on record in the office of the Secretary of State at the Capitol in the City of Guthrie, in the State of Oklahoma.

Therefore, I, Leo Meyer, Assistant Secretary of State and now Acting Secretary of State of the State of Oklahoma, by authority invested in me under § 4 of house bill No. 131, approved by the Governor of the State of Oklahoma, C. N. Haskell, May 26th, 1908, do hereby declare the license of the said St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company to transact business in the State of Oklahoma forfeited and revoked.

In testimony whereof, I have set my hand and caused to be affixed the great seal of the state.

Done at the City of Guthrie this 29th day of August, A.D., 1908.


Acting Secretary of State

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Thereupon the suit which is now before...

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