260 U.S. 653 (1923), 422, Lee v. Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company

Docket Nº:No. 422
Citation:260 U.S. 653, 43 S.Ct. 230, 67 L.Ed. 443
Party Name:Lee v. Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company
Case Date:January 22, 1923
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 653

260 U.S. 653 (1923)

43 S.Ct. 230, 67 L.Ed. 443

Lee

v.

Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company

No. 422

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 22, 1923

Argued January 5, 1923

ERROR TO THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY

Syllabus

1. A case which, by virtue of the diverse citizenship of the parties, falls within the general jurisdiction of the district courts as conferred by Jud.Code § 24, is within the general jurisdiction of a district court sitting in a state of which neither party is a citizen. P. 654.

2. The clause of Jud.Code § 51 providing that such suits shall be brought only in the district court in the district of the residence of either the plaintiff or the defendant does not limit the general jurisdiction created by § 24, or withdraw any suit therefrom, but merely confers a personal privilege on the defendant, which he may assert or waive, at his election. P. 655.

3. Whenever such a suit is removed from a state court under Jud.Code § 28, the removal must be to the district court in the district where the suit is pending. Id., §§ 29, 53. P. 656.

4. The right of removal under § 28 is exercisable by the defendant or defendants without regard to the assent of the plaintiff. P. 658.

5. An action between citizens of different states begun in a court of a which neither is a citizen is removable by the defendant to the district court of the district in which the suit is pending. P. 658. Ex parte Wisner, 203 U.S. 449, overruled; In re Moore, 209 U.S. 490, qualified.

6. The purpose of the Act of August 13, 1888, c. 866, 25 Stat. 433, to contract the jurisdiction of the circuit courts affords no basis for subtracting from its provisions where definite and free from ambiguity. P. 660.

Affirmed.

Error to a judgment of the district court sustaining its jurisdiction and dismissing the complaint in an action for personal injuries removed from a state court.

Page 654

VANDEVANTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This was an action to recover damages in the sum of $10,000 for personal injuries alleged to have been sustained by the plaintiff while entering one of the defendant's passenger trains in Kentucky for an intrastate trip. The plaintiff was a citizen and resident of Texas and the defendant a corporate citizen and resident of Virginia. The action was begun in a state court in Bracken County, Kentucky, and, because of the diverse citizenship of the parties, was removed at the defendant's instance, into the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Kentucky, which includes Bracken County. When the transcript reached the district court, the plaintiff moved that the cause be remanded to the state court on the ground that the district court was without jurisdiction in that neither party was a resident of that district. The motion was overruled, the plaintiff elected to [43 S.Ct. 231] stand on the motion, and judgment was given for the defendant. The plaintiff then brought the case here on a direct writ of error (Judicial Code § 238) to obtain a review of the ruling on his motion to remand.

Under the Constitution, Art. III, § 2, the judicial power extends, among other cases, to such as arise under the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States, and to such as are between citizens of different states.

Section 24 of the Judicial Code defines the general jurisdiction of the district courts, the pertinent provision being as follows:

The district courts shall have original jurisdiction . . . of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity . . . where the matter in controversy exceeds,

Page 655

exclusive of interest and costs, the sum or value of three thousand dollars, and (a) arises under the Constitution or laws of the United States, or treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority, or (b) is between citizens of different states. . . .

This grant of jurisdiction covers two distinct classes of suits. In one, the citizenship of the parties is not an element, while in the other, it is the distinctive feature. As to the suit before us, it is very clear that the diverse citizenship of the parties and the sum involved bring it within the latter class, and therefore within the general jurisdiction of the district courts.

Section 51 of the Code relates to the venue of suits originally begun in those courts, and provides, subject to exceptions not material here, that

. . . No civil suit shall be brought in any district court against any person by any original process or proceeding in any other district than that whereof he is an inhabitant, but where the jurisdiction is founded only on the fact that the action is between citizens of different states, suit shall be brought only in the district of the residence of either the plaintiff or the defendant.

It is a necessary conclusion from repeated decisions, going back to the original Judiciary Act of 1789, that this provision does not limit the general jurisdiction of the district courts or withdraw any suit therefrom, but merely confers a personal privilege on the defendant, which he may assert or may waive at his election, and does waive if, when sued in some other district, he enters an appearance without claiming his privilege. Gracie v. Palmer, 8 Wheat. 699; Toland v. Sprague, 12 Pet. 300, 330; Ex parte Schollenberger, 96 U.S. 369, 378; Central Trust Co. v. McGeorge, 151 U.S. 129; Interior Construction Co. v. Gibney, 160 U.S. 217; United States v. Hvoslef, 237 U.S. 1, 12; Camp v. Gress, 250 U.S. 308, 311; General Investment Co. v. Lake Shore & Michigan Southern

Page 656

Ry. Co., ante, 261. The following excerpt from Interior Construction Co. v. Gibney, p. 219, is particularly apposite:

The Circuit Courts of the United States are thus vested with general jurisdiction of civil actions, involving the requisite pecuniary value, between citizens of different states. Diversity of citizenship is a condition of jurisdiction, and, when that does not appear upon the record, the court, of its own motion, will order the action to be dismissed. But the provision as to the particular district in which the action shall be brought does not touch the general jurisdiction of the court over such a cause between such parties, but affects...

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