253 U.S. 345 (1920), 728, Porto Rico Railway, Light & Power Company v. Mor

Docket NºNo. 728
Citation253 U.S. 345, 40 S.Ct. 516, 64 L.Ed. 944
Party NamePorto Rico Railway, Light & Power Company v. Mor
Case DateJune 01, 1920
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 345

253 U.S. 345 (1920)

40 S.Ct. 516, 64 L.Ed. 944

Porto Rico Railway, Light & Power Company

v.

Mor

No. 728

United States Supreme Court

June 1, 1920

Argued April 23, 1920

CERTIFICATE FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIRST CIRCUIT

Syllabus

In the provision of the Act of March 2, 1917, c. 145, 39 Stat. 965, which gives the United States District Court for Porto Rico jurisdiction

where all the parties on either side of the controversy are citizens or subjects of a foreign state or states, or citizens of a state, territory, or district of the United States not domiciled in Porto Rico,

etc., the clause "not domiciled in Porto Rico" relates to both preceding clauses, so that jurisdiction is not conferred over an action by an alien domiciled in Porto Rico against a local corporation. P. 346.

When several words are followed by a clause which is applicable as much to the first and other words as to the last, the clause should be read as applicable to all. P. 348.

The case is stated in the opinion.

BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Mor, a subject of the King of Spain, domiciled in Porto Rico, brought in the United States District Court for

Page 346

Porto Rico this action at law for an amount exceeding $3,000, exclusive of interest and costs, against the Porto Rico Railway, Light & Power Company, a Porto Rico corporation having its principal place of business there. Objection to the jurisdiction of the trial court was overruled, and the plaintiff recovered judgment. The case came before the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on writ of error, and that court has presented to us by certificate the question whether the district court had jurisdiction. The answer depends upon the construction to be given to the following provision contained in § 41 of the so-called Jones Act of March 2, 1917, c. 145, 39 Stat. 951, 965, which provides a civil government for Porto Rico:

Said district court shall have jurisdiction of all controversies where all of the parties on either side of the controversy are citizens or subjects of a foreign state or states, or citizens of a state, territory, or district of the United States not domiciled in Porto Rico, wherein the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive of interest or cost, the sum or value of $3,000. . . .

It is clear under this act that if Mor, instead of being a Spanish subject, had been a citizen of one of the United States, the court would not have had jurisdiction, since he was domiciled in Porto Rico. The precise question therefore is whether the restriction of jurisdiction to cases where all the parties on either side of the controversy are "not domiciled in Porto Rico" applies to aliens as well as to American citizens.

The judicial system of Porto Rico prior to annexation to the United States comprised a supreme court and district trial courts of general jurisdiction and municipal courts. The proceedings in all of these courts were conducted in the Spanish language and according to the forms of the civil law. By § 33 of the Foraker Act, April 12, 1900, c.191, 31 Stat. 77, 84, which established what was intended

Page 347

as a temporary civil government for the island, these insular courts were continued, with the proviso that the judges of the supreme court should be appointed by the President, and the judges of the inferior courts by the Governor. By § 40 of the Jones Act, the jurisdiction of these courts and the forms of procedure in them were further continued.

The "District Court of the United States for Porto Rico" provided for by § 41 of the Jones Act...

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