Montana Co v. St Louis Mining Milling Co

Decision Date05 March 1894
Docket NumberNo. 167,167
Citation38 L.Ed. 398,14 S.Ct. 506,152 U.S. 160
PartiesMONTANA CO., Limited, et al. v. ST. LOUIS MINING & MILLING CO
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Statement by Mr. Justice BREWER:

The facts in this case are as follows: On November 6, 1889, the defendant in error filed in the district court of the county of Lewis and Clarke, in the then territory of Montana, its petition praying an order for the inspection of certain mines alleged to be the property and in possession of the Montana Company, Limited. Notice was given, the defendant appeared and answered, a hearing was had, and on the 7th of December, 1889, an order for an inspection was made by the judge of said court. This order recited the giving of the notice, the hearing of the application, the production of evidence, and the arguments of counsel; finds that an inspection is necessary for the ascertainment, enforcement, and protection of the rights and interests of the petitioner in the mining claim owned by it; appoints the inspectors, and directs that they make an inspection, examination, and survey. It limits the survey to the vertical planes of the end lines of the petitioners' claim, forbids the removal of any ore or minerals, or entrance to the mine unless accompanied by three representatives of the defendant, and in general makes suitable provisions to prevent any unnecessary interference with the defendant's working of the mine. By subsequent proceedings in the way of contempt, Rawlinson T. Bayliss, the general manager of the Montana Company, Limited, became a party to this litigation, and, upon an adverse termination thereof in the district court, a review was sought in the supreme court of the state, the territory having been admitted into the Union intermediate the filing of the application and the final disposition of the case in the district court. By that court the proceedings were sustained, and on February 4, 1890, it entered a judgment of affirmance. 23 Pac. 510. To review this judgment the defendants sued out a writ of error from this court. The statute under which the proceedings were had is section 376 of the Code of Civil Procedure, (Comp. St. p. 162,) and is in these words:

'Whenever any person shall have any right to or interest in any lead, lode, or mining claim which is in the possession of another person, and it shall be necessary for the ascertainment, enforcement, or protection or such right or interest that an inspection, examination, or survey of such mine, lode, or mining claim should be had or made; or whenever any inspection, examination, or survey of any such lode or mining claim shall be necessary to protect, ascertain, or enforce the right or interest of any person in another mine, lead, lode, or mining claim and the person in possession of the same shall refuse for a period of three days, after demand therefor in writing, to allow such inspection, examination, or survey to be had or made the party so desiring the same may present to the district court or a judge thereof of the county wherein the mine, lead, lode, or mining claim is situated a petition under oath setting out his interest in the premises, describing the same; that the premises are in the possession of a party, naming him, the reason why such examination, inspection, or survey is necessary, the demand made on the person in possession so to permit such examination, inspection, or survey, and his refusal so to do. The court or judge shall thereupon appoint a time and place for hearing such petition and shall order notice thereof to be served upon the adverse party, which notice shall be served at least one day before the day of hearing. On the hearing either party may read affidavits, and if the court or judge is satisfied that the facts stated in the petition are true he shall make an order for an inspection, examination, or survey of the lode or mining claim in question in such manner, at such time, and by such persons as are mentioned in the order. Such persons shall thereupon have free access to such mine, lead, lode, or mining claim for the purpose of making such inspection, examination, or survey, and any interference with such persons while acting under such order shall be contempt of court. If the order of the court is made while an action is pending between the parties to the order, the costs of obtaining the order shall abide the result of the action, but all costs of making such examination or survey shall be paid by the petitioner.'

W. E. Cullen, A. H. Garland, and Heber J. May, for plaintiffs in error.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 163-164 intentionally omitted] John B. Clayberg, for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice BREWER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.

The decision of the supreme court of the state ends all inquiry as to a conflict between the statute or the proceedings had thereunder and the state constitution. The only question we may consider is whether there is any violation of the provisions of the federal constitution.

In the petition filed for the writ of error the plaintiffs in error alleged, as the basis thereof, that 'the validity of said statute is drawn in question on the ground of its being repugnant to that provision of the fourteenth amendment to the constitution of the United States which prohibits any state from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.'

In the brief it is said that the chief justice of the supreme court of the state, in his opinion, summarized exactly what they insist upon, as follows:

'It is contended that this statute is unconstitutional, and authorizes the inspection, examination, and survey of the mining property of the Montana Company, Limited, upon the petition of the St. Louis Mining and Milling Company of Montana, and before the commencement of any action by the parties. The obnoxious features are pointed out in the brief, and may be summarized under the following heads: This law may be made an instrument of oppression and injustice; the quality of the interest of the petitioner is not defined; no bond is required to be given to secure the payment of the damages which may result to the owner of the property which is invaded; no appeal is allowed from the order of the court or judge in granting the prayer of the petitioner; the power of the court or judge is vast, and can practically confiscate any mine in the state; the innocent owners of mining property are injured without 'due process of law."

Inspection orders like this have been frequently made, some- times under the authority of special statutes, and sometimes by virtue only of the general powers of a court of equity. See the following cases, most of which are collected in the opinion of the supreme court of the state: Earl of Lonsdale v. Curwen, 3 Bligh. 168; Walker v. Fletcher, Id. 172; Blakesley v. Whieldon, 1 Hare, 176; Lewis v. Marsh. 8 Hare, 97; Bennitt v. White-house, 28 Beav. 119; Bennett v. Griffiths, 30 Law J. Q. B. 98; Whaley v. Brancker, 10 Law T. (N. S.) 155; Thornburgh v. Mining Co., 1 Pac. Law Mag. 267; 7 Morr. Min. R. 667, Fed. Cas. No. 13,986; Stockbridge Iron Co. v. Cone Iron Works, 102 Mass. 80; Thomas Iron Co. v. Allentown Min. Co., 28 N. J. Eq. 77.

It was said in Lewis v. Marsh, supra, by the vice chancellor: 'I think the case is one in which there is a necessity that the party should be allowed what he asks, in order to prove his case. That is the meaning of necessity. A party cannot get his rights without proving what his rights are; and it is inherent in the case that the plaintiffs should have an opportunity of ascertaining that the defendants do not work more coal than they are entitled to do.'

And in Bennett v. Griffiths, where leave was asked, not merely for an inspection, but for making a driftway through a wall for the purpose of determining what workings had been done behind it, the court, by Cockburn, C. J., said: 'We are of opinion that the judge had jurisdiction to make the order in question. The power to order an inspection of real or personal property has long existed in the courts of equity, and we find that, as ancillary to that power, the courts of equity have ordered the removal, where necessary, of obstructions to the inspection.'

In Thornburgh v. Mining Co., a case heard and determined in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Nevada by the district judge, Alexander W. Baldwin, we find the matter thus discussed:

'Ought a court of equity, in a mining case, when it has been convinced of the importance thereof for the purposes of the trial, to compel an inspection and survey of the works of the parties, and admittance thereto, by means of the appliances in use at the mine? All the analogies of equity jurisprudence favor the affirmative of this proposition. The very great powers with which a court of chancery is clothed were given it to enable it to carry out the administration of nicer and more perfect justice than is attainable in a court of law.

'That a court of equity, having jurisdiction of the subject-matter of the action, has the power to enforce an order of this kind, will not be denied. And the propriety of exercising that power would seem to be clear, indeed, in a case where, without it, the trial would be a silly farce. Take, as an illustration, the case at bar. It is notorious that the facts by which this controversy must be determined cannot be discovered except by an inspection of works in the possession of the defendant, accessible only by means of a deep shaft and machinery operated by it. It would be a denial of justice, and utterly...

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