Ex parte Pennsylvania Co

Decision Date22 December 1890
Citation137 U.S. 451,34 L.Ed. 738,11 S.Ct. 141
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Danl, Davenport and William H. O'Hara, for petitioner.

Lewis E. Stanton, for respondent.


This is a petition of the Pennsylvania Company, a corporation and a citizen of Pennsylvania, for a mandamus to be directed to the judges of the circuit court of the United States for the district of Connecticut, commanding them to reinstate, take jurisdiction of, and try and adjudge a certain suit of one Alberto T. Roraback, a citizen of Connecticut, against the said Pennsylvania Company. The suit had been commenced on the 4th of June, 1889, by writ returnable the first Monday of July, 1889, in the court of common pleas for Litchfield county, in the state of Connecticut. The demand in said suit was for the sum of $500. In the term of March, 1890, of said court of common pleas the company filed a petition for the removal of the suit to the United States circuit court for the district of Connecticut, on the ground of prejudice and local influence, filing therewith proper affidavit and bond, and the said court accepted said petition and bond, and granted the spplication, and ordered the suit to be removed. On the opening of the circuit court of the United States in April, the company entered in said circuit court a copy of the record, and also filed a petition to the same court reciting the steps already taken, realleging the ground of removal, and praying the court to take jurisdiction of the suit; and filed an additional affidavit setting forth all the facts as to the existence of the alleged prejudice and local influence in the state court, and that the petitioner would not be able to obtain justice therein. But, afterwards, the plaintiff in the suit moved to remand the same to the state court, on the ground that the amount in dispute did not exceed the sum of $2,000, exclusive of interest and costs. The circuit judge granted the application, and made an order for remanding the cause, and the circuit court refuses to take jurisdiction of the same. 42 Fed. Rep. 420. Wherefore the present mandamus is prayed.

The first question to be decided is, whether this court has power to grant the writ applied for. The general power of the court to issue a writ of mandamus to an inferior court, to take jurisdiction of a cause when it refuses to do so, is settled by a long train of decisions. Ex parte Bradstreet, 7 Pet. 634; Insurance Co. v. Wilson, 8 Pet. 291; U. S. v. Gomez, 3 Wall. 752; Ex parte Roberts, 15 Wall. 384; Ex parte United States, 16 Wall. 699, 702; Insurance Co. v. Comstock, Id. 258, 271; Railroad Co. v. Wiswall, 23 Wall. 507; Ex parte Scol lenberger, 96 U. S. 369; Harrington v. Haller, 111 U. S. 796, 4 Sup. Ct. Rep. 697; Ex parte Brown, 116 U. S. 401, 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 387; Ex parte Parker, 120 U. S. 737, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 767; Id., 131 U. S. 221, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 708. It is true that after a case has proceeded to the filing of a declaration and a plea to the jurisdiction, or its equivalent, and a judgment is rendered in favor of the plea, and a consequent dismissal of the action, this court had held that the plaintiff is confined to his remedy by writ of error, and cannot have a mandamus, which only lies, as a general rule, where there is no other adequate remedy. Ex parte Baltimore & O. R. Co., 108 U. S. 566, 2 Sup. Ct. Rep. 876; Ex parte Railway Co., 103 U. S. 794. But it was expressly held in Railroad Co. v. Wiswall, 23 Wall. 507, that a mandamus would lie to compel a circuit court to take jurisdiction of and proceed with a case which it had wrongfully remanded to the state court. The reason was that an order to remand was not a final judgment, and no writ of error would lie. This case is supported by the rule laid down by Chief Justice MARSHALL in Ex parte Bradstreet, 7 Pet. 634; and, if the decision of the present case depended only on the general rule, the power of the court to issue the mandamus would be undoubted. But, in our opinion, the matter is governed by statute. This will be manifest by reference to previous legislation on the subject. The fifth section of the act of March 3, 1875, (determining the jurisdiction of the circuit courts,) provided that the order of the circuit court dismissing or remanding a cause to the state court should be reviewable by the supreme court on writ of error or appeal, as the case might be. 18 St. 470, 472. This act remained in force until the passage of the act of March 3, 1887, by which it was superseded, and the writ of error or appeal upon orders to remand causes to the state courts was abrogated. The provision of the act of 1887 is as follows: 'Whenever any cause shall be removed from any state court into any circuit court of the United States, and the circuit court shall decide that the cause was improperly removed, and order the same to be remanded to the state court from whence it came, such remand shall be immediately carried into execution, and no appeal or writ of error from the decision of the circuit court so remanding such cause shall be allowed.' 24 St. 553. This statute was re-enacted August 13, 1888, for the purpose of correcting some mistakes in the enrollment, (25 St. 435;) but the above clause remained without change. In terms, it only abolishes appeals and writs of error, it is true, and does not mention writs of mandamus; and it is unquestionably a general rule that the abrogation of one remedy does not affect another. But in this case, we think, it was the intention of congress to make the judgment of the circuit court remanding a cause to the state court final and conclusive. The general object of the act is to contract the jurisdiction of the federal courts. The abrogation of the writ of error and appeal would have had little effect in putting an end to the question of removal, if the writ of mandamus could still have been sued out in this court. It is true that the general supervisory power of this court over inferior jurisdictions is of great moment in a public point of view, and should not, upon light grounds, be deemed to be taken away in any case. Still, although the writ of mandamus is not mentioned in the section, yet the use of the words, 'such remand shall be immediately carried into execution,' in addition to the prohibition of appeal and writ of error, is strongly indicative of an intent to suppress further prolongation of the controversy by whatever process. We are, therefore, of opinion that the act has the effect of taking away the remedy by mandamus as well as that of appeal and writ of error.

We also agree with the circuit judge that, by the act of 1887, the matter in dispute must exceed the sum o v alue of $2,000, in order to give the circuit court jurisdiction, as well in cases sought to be removed from...

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