98 U.S. 403 (1879), Mississippi & Rum River Boom Co. v. Patterson

Citation98 U.S. 403, 25 L.Ed. 206
Case DateMarch 03, 1879
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 403

98 U.S. 403 (1879)

25 L.Ed. 206




United States Supreme Court.

March 03, 1879


ERROR to the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Minnesota.

The plaintiff is a corporation created by the laws of Minnesota, known as the Mississippi and Rum River Boom Company, and the defendant is a citizen of the State of Illinois.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.


Page 404

Mr. William Lochren for the plaintiff in error.

Mr. Charles E. Flandrau for the defendant in error.

MR. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff in error is a corporation created under the laws of Minnesota to construct booms between certain designated points on the Mississippi and Rum Rivers in that State. It is authorized to enter upon and occupy any land necessary for properly conducting its business; and, where such land is private property, to apply to the District Court of the county in which it is situated for the appointment of commissioners to appraise its value and take proceedings for its condemnation. It is unnecessary to state in detail the various steps required to obtain the condemnation. It is sufficient to observe that the law is framed so as to give proper notice to the owners of the land, and secure a fair appraisement of its value. If the award of the commissioners should not be satisfactory to the company, or to any one claiming an interest in the land, an appeal may be taken to the District Court, where it is to be entered by the clerk 'as a case upon the docket' of the court, the persons claiming an interest in the land being designated as plaintiffs, and the company seeking its condemnation as defendant. The court is then required to 'proceed to hear and determine such case in the same manner that other cases are heard and determined in said court.' Issues of fact arising therein are to be tried by a jury, unless a jury be waived. The value of the land being assessed by the jury or the court, as the case may be, the amount of the assessment is to be entered as a judgment against the company, which is subject to review by the Supreme Court of the State on a writ of error.

The defendant in error, Patterson, was the owner in fee of an entire island and parts of two other islands in the Mississippi River above the Falls of St. Anthony, in the county of Anoka,

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in Minnesota. These islands formed a line of shore, with occasional breaks, for nearly a mile parallel with the west bank of the river, and distant from it about one-eighth of a mile. The land owned by him amounted to a little over thirty-four acres, and embraced the entire line of shore of the three islands, with the exception of about three rods. The position of the islands specially fitted them, in connection with the west bank of the river, to form a boom of extensive dimensions, capable of holding with safety from twenty to thirty millions of feet of logs. All that was required to form a boom a mile in length and one-eighth of a mile in width was to connect the islands with each other, and the lower end of the island farthest down the river with the west bank; and this connection could be readily made by boom sticks and piers.

The land on these islands owned by the defendant in error the company sought to condemn for its uses; and upon its application commissioners were appointed by the District Court to appraise its value. They awarded to the owner the sum of $3,000. The company and the owner both appealed from this award. When the case was brought before the District Court, the owner, Patterson, who was a citizen of the State of Illinois, applied for and obtained its removal to the Circuit Court of the United States, where it was tried. The jury found a general verdict assessing the value of the land at $9,358.33, but accompanied it with a special verdict assessing its value aside from any consideration of its value for boom purposes at $300, and, in view of its adaptability for those purposes, a further and additional value of $9,058.33. The company moved for a new trial, and the court granted the motion, unless the owner would elect to reduce the verdict to $5,500. The owner made this election, and judgment was thereupon entered in his favor for the reduced amount. To review this judgment the company has brought the case here on a writ of error.

The only question on which there was any contention in the Circuit Court was as to the amount of compensation the owner of the land was entitled to receive, and the principle upon which the compensation was to be estimated. But the company now raise a further question as to the jurisdiction of the

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Circuit Court. Objections to the jurisdiction of the court below, when they go to the subject-matter of the controversy and not to the form merely of its presentation or to the character of the relief prayed, may be taken at any time. They are not waived because they were not made in the lower court.

The position of the company on this head of jurisdiction is this: that the proceeding to take private property for public use is an exercise by the State of its sovereign right of eminent domain, and with its exercise the United States, a separate sovereignty, has no right to interfere by any of its departments. This position is undoubtedly a sound one, so far as the act of...

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