346 U.S. 574 (1954), 209, Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Co. v. Stude

Docket Nº:No. 209
Citation:346 U.S. 574, 74 S.Ct. 290, 98 L.Ed. 317
Party Name:Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Co. v. Stude
Case Date:January 18, 1954
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 574

346 U.S. 574 (1954)

74 S.Ct. 290, 98 L.Ed. 317

Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Co.

v.

Stude

No. 209

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 18, 1954

Argued December 2-3, 1953

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

An administrative condemnation proceeding instituted by petitioner under an Iowa statute resulted in a commission's award of $23,000 damages to the landowner. The statute provides for an appeal from the commission's award to a state court. Petitioner filed a complaint in the Federal District Court, alleging diversity of citizenship, and praying that the damages for the taking of the land be fixed at not more than $10,000. Petitioner also filed an appeal in the state court, where, as required by Iowa law, the case was docketed with the landowner as plaintiff and the petitioner as defendant. Thereafter, petitioner filed a petition to remove the state court proceeding to the federal court. Respondents filed in the Federal District Court a motion to dismiss the complaint filed therein and a motion to remand the case removed from the state court.

Held:

1. The case removed from the state court was properly ordered remanded to that court. Pp. 578-580.

(a) In the circumstances of this case, an order denying a motion to remand is reviewed, although the order would not be appealable if it stood alone. P. 578.

(b) Within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), petitioner was plaintiff, and not "defendant," in the state court proceeding, and therefore was not authorized to remove that proceeding to the Federal District Court. Pp. 578-580.

(c) For the purpose of removal, the federal law determines who is plaintiff and who is defendant, and the procedural provisions of the state law are not controlling. P. 580.

2. The original complaint in the Federal District Court was properly dismissed. Pp. 580-582.

(a) Petitioner's complaint in the Federal District Court was an attempt to have that court review the state proceedings on appeal. Iowa law does not purport to authorize such an appeal, Congress has provided none by statute, and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure make no such provision. Pp. 580-582.

Page 575

(b) The complaint in the Federal District Court did not invoke the jurisdiction of that court in an eminent domain proceeding. P. 582.

(c) The question whether petitioner could proceed by way of an original action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa is not here presented or decided. P. 582.

204 F.2d 116, 954, affirmed.

MINTON, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MINTON delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner, a Delaware corporation, owns and operates its railroad through Pottawattamie County, Iowa. It was authorized by the Interstate Commerce Commission to improve its line of railway in that county and by the Iowa State Commerce Commission to acquire by condemnation any land necessary for the improvement.

On January 18, 1952, pursuant to the Iowa Code,1 the petitioner filed with the sheriff of the county its application to condemn certain lands in the county owned by respondent Stude. The sheriff appointed a commission

Page 576

of six resident freeholders to assess damages. Notice was given by the sheriff to the respondent owner and others interested in the land, and an award of damages in the sum of $23,888.60 was allowed to the owner, and $1,000 to the tenant. The amount of the assessment was paid by the petitioner to the sheriff, and the petitioner took possession of the land.2 Such appraisal became final unless appealed from.

On March 6, 1952, the petitioner filed with the sheriff of the county a notice of appeal from the commission's award. The Iowa Code provides for appeal as follows:

472.18 Appeal. Any party interested may, within thirty days after the assessment is made, appeal therefrom to the district court, by giving the adverse party, his agent or attorney, and the sheriff, written [74 S.Ct. 293] notice that such appeal has been taken.

* * * *

472.21 Appeals -- how docketed and tried. The appeal shall be docketed in the name of the owner of the land, or of the party otherwise interested and appealing, as plaintiff, and in the name of the applicant for condemnation as defendant, and be tried as in an action by ordinary proceedings.

Code of Iowa 1950.

Page 577

The petitioner then filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa against the respondents in which it alleged diversity of citizenship, jurisdictional amount, authority to make improvements and to condemn therefor, together with a description of the land and that respondent Stude was the owner, and that the assessment proceedings had been instituted in the sheriff's office, resulting in the assessment of damages of $23,888.60, which was alleged to be excessive, and that appeal was taken by notice duly given. This notice was referred to as Exhibit A to the complaint, which exhibit recited that the appeal was taken to the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, and a transcript of the sheriff's proceeding was filed in that court. The prayer was that the damages for the taking of the land be fixed at not more than $10,000. On this complaint, a summons was issued and served upon the respondents.

The petitioner also filed an appeal from this assessment in the state court, the District Court for Pottawattamie County. The case was docketed there with the landowner as the plaintiff and the petitioner-ondemnor as defendant, as required by the Iowa Code. Thereafter, a petition to remove the cause to the federal court was filed by the petitioner. The respondents filed in the Federal District Court a motion to dismiss the complaint filed therein and a motion to remand the case removed from the state court.

The federal court granted the motion to dismiss and dismissed the complaint, but denied the motion to remand. Chicago, R.I. & P. R. Co. v. Kay, 107 F.Supp. 895. The petitioner appealed from the judgment dismissing its complaint. The respondents gave notice of appeal from the order of the District Court denying the motion...

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