People of Puerto Rico v. Russell Co Sucesores En 10 8212 13, 1933, No. 492

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTONE
Citation53 S.Ct. 447,288 U.S. 476,77 L.Ed. 903
Docket NumberNo. 492
Decision Date13 March 1933
PartiesPEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO v. RUSSELL & CO., SUCESORES, S. EN C. et al. Argued Feb. 10—13, 1933

288 U.S. 476
53 S.Ct. 447
77 L.Ed. 903
PEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO

v.

RUSSELL & CO., SUCESORES, S. EN C. et al.

No. 492.
Argued Feb. 10—13, 1933.
Decided March 13, 1933.

Page 477

Messrs. Wm. Cattron Rigby and Fred W. Llewellyn, both of Washington, D.C., for People of Puerto Rico.

Mr. Francis E. Neagle, of New York City, for respondents.

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The people of Puerto Rico, the petitioner, brought this suit in the insular district court of San Juan, Puerto Rico, against the respondent Russell & Co., a sociedad en comandita organized under the laws of Puerto Rico, to recover certain assessments levied on lands of Russell & Co., under an act of the Legislature of Puerto Rico. The individual respondents, members of the sociedad, none of whom are citizens of Puerto Rico or domiciled there, were not named as defendants. They appeared specially in the insular court and removed the cause to the United States District Court for Puerto Rico. That court denied a motion to remand and gave its decree for respondents on the ground, first raised by the answer, that the assess-

Page 478

ments sued for were levied in violation of section 2 of the Organic Act of Porto Rico, March 2, 1917, c. 145, 39 Stat. 951 (48 USCA § 737), forbidding the enactment of any law impairing the obligation of contract. On appeal the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed, 60 F.(2d) 10; this Court granted certiorari. 287 U.S. 593, 53 S.Ct. 222, 77 L.Ed. —-.

Section 41 of the Organic Act (48 USCA § 863) confers on the United States District Court for Puerto Rico 'jurisdiction of all cases cognizable in the district courts of the United States,' and also 'jurisdiction of all controversies where all of the parties on either side of the controversy are citizens * * * of a foreign State or States, or citizens of a State, Territory, or District of the United States not domiciled in Porto Rico, wherein the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive of interest or cost, the sum or value of $3,000.' By section 42 (48 USCA § 864) 'the laws of the United States relating to * * * removal of causes, and other matters or proceedings as between the courts of the United States and the courts of the several States shall govern in such matters and proceedings as between the district court of the United States and the courts of Porto Rico. * * *' Thus suits arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States are within the jurisdiction of the District Court for Puerto Rico (section 24, Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 41 (28 USCA § 41)), and civil suits begun in the insular court over which the federal court has original jurisdiction may be removed in accordance with the provisions of section 28 of the Judicial Code (28 U.S.C. § 71 (28 USCA § 71)).

Admittedly, if the individual members of the sociedad are 'parties' within the meaning of the Organic Act, § 41, supra, the suit is one within the jurisdiction of the District Court because of their nonresidence, diversity of citizenship being unnecessary. See Porto Rico Ry., Light & Power Co. v. Mor, 253 U.S. 345, 40 S.Ct. 516, 64 L.Ed. 944. And, if the nonresidence of the individual members would confer jurisdiction upon the federal court in a suit against the sociedad

Page 479

originally instituted there, we will assume, for present purposes, that it would also suffice to justify removal by the individuals, even though the insular court refuses to recognize them as parties. Compare McLaughlin v. Hallowell, 228 U.S. 278, 290, 33 S.Ct. 465, 57 L.Ed. 835. The petitioner argues, nevertheless, that the suit was not removable because of citizenship, for the reason that the sociedad is a juridical entity under Puerto Rican law and, as in the case of a corporation, its domicile rather than that of its members determines citizenship for purposes of federal jurisdiction. If the petitioner's contention is sound, the District Court was without jurisdiction, unless the suit was, as the respondents argue, one arising under the laws of the United States. The questions raised by these contentions must therefore first be answered.

For almost a century, in ascertaining whether there is the requisite diversity of citizenship to confer jurisdiction on the federal courts, we have looked to the domicile of a corporation, not that of its individual stockholders, as controlling. Louisville R.R. Co. v. Letson, 2 How. 497, 11 L.Ed. 353; Rundle v. Delaware & Raritan Canal Co., 14 How. 80, 14 L.Ed. 335; Marshall v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R., 16 How. 314, 14 L.Ed. 953; Lafayette Insurance Co. v. French, 18 How. 404, 15 L.Ed. 451; Covington Draw Bridge Co. v. Shepherd, 20 How. 227, 15 L.Ed. 896; St. Louis & San Francisco Ry. Co. v. James, 161 U.S. 545, 16 S.Ct. 621, 40 L.Ed. 802; Patch v. Wabash Ry., 207 U.S. 277, 28 S.Ct. 80, 52 L.Ed. 204, 12 Ann.Cas. 518. In its final form this rule of jurisdiction was stated in terms of a 'conclusive presumption' that the stockholders are citizens of the state of the corporate domicile, see Marshall v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R., supra, 16 How. 328, 14 L.Ed. 953; Covington Draw Bridge Co. v. Shepherd, supra, 20 How. 233, 15 L.Ed. 896; St. Louis & San Francisco Ry. Co. v. James, supra, 161 U.S. 554, 16 S.Ct. 621, 40 L.Ed. 802; but even those who formulated the rule found its theoretical justification only in the complete legal personality with which corporations are endowed. Fictitious that personality may be, in the sense that the fact that the corporation is composed of a plu-

Page 480

rality of individuals, themselves legal persons, is disregarded, but 'it is a fiction created by law with intent that it should be acted on as if true.' Klein v. Board of Supervisors, 282 U.S. 19, 24, 51 S.Ct. 15, 16, 75 L.Ed. 140, 73 A.L.R. 679. This treatment of the aggregate for other purposes as a person distinct from its members, with capacity to perform all legal acts, made it possible and convenient to treat it so for purposes of federal jurisdiction as well. But status as a unit for purposes of suit alone, as in the case of a joint-stock company, see Chapman v. Barney, 129 U.S. 677, 682, 9 S.Ct. 426, 32 L.Ed. 800; Levering & Garrigues v. Morrin (C.C.A.) 61 F.(2d) 115, 117, or a limited partnership, not shown to have the other attributes of a corporation, Great Southern Fireproof Hotel Co. v. Jones, 177 U.S. 449, 20 S.Ct. 690, 44 L.Ed. 842; compare Thomas v. Board of Trustees, 195 U.S. 207, 25 S.Ct. 24, 49 L.Ed. 160, has been deemed a legal personality too incomplete; what was but an association of individuals for so many ends and a juridical entity for only a few was not easily to be treated as if it were a single citizen.

The tradition of the common law is to treat as legal persons only incorporated groups and to assimilate all others to partnerships. Chapman v. Barney, supra; Great Southern Fireproof Hotel Co. v. Jones, supra. The tradition of the civil law, as expressed in the Code of Puerto Rico, is otherwise.1 Therefore to call the sociedad en

Page 481

comandita a limited partnership in the common-law sense, as the respondents and others have...

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190 practice notes
  • Sandsberry v. Gulf, C. & SF Ry. Co., Civ. A. No. 1611.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • July 31, 1953
    ...F.2d 739. 7 Little York Gold Washing & Water Company, Ltd. v. Keyes, 96 U.S. 199, 24 L.Ed. 656. 8 People of Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476, 53 S.Ct. 447, 449, 77 L.Ed. 903. "Federal jurisdiction may be invoked to vindicate a right or privilege claimed under a federal statute. It......
  • Meoli v. Huntington Nat'l Bank (In re Teleservices Grp., Inc.), Case No. HG 05-00690
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Michigan
    • March 30, 2012
    ...36.A corporation "is a fiction created by law with intent that it should be acted on as if true." People of Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476, 480, 53 S. Ct. 447, 448 (1933) (quoting Klein v. Bd. of Supervisors, 282 U.S. 19, 24, 51 S. Ct. 15, 16 (1930)). 37.The issue previously aro......
  • Estate of Cornell v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, No. 18-1245
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • November 13, 2018
    ...by federal law," or "such law was only indirectly and remotely" relevant in the litigation), cited in Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co. , 288 U.S. 476, 483–84, 53 S.Ct. 447, 77 L.Ed. 903 (1933) ("[Federal jurisdiction] may not be invoked ... merely because the plaintiff’s right to sue is derived......
  • Mailloux v. Mailloux, Nos. 75-2898
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 31, 1977
    ...discredited since their adoption, see Wright, supra, § 17, one of the most accepted is that set forth in Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476, 483, 53 S.Ct. 447, 449, 77 L.Ed. 903 Federal jurisdiction may be invoked to vindicate a right or privilege claimed under a federal statute. It......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
190 cases
  • Sandsberry v. Gulf, C. & SF Ry. Co., Civ. A. No. 1611.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • July 31, 1953
    ...F.2d 739. 7 Little York Gold Washing & Water Company, Ltd. v. Keyes, 96 U.S. 199, 24 L.Ed. 656. 8 People of Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476, 53 S.Ct. 447, 449, 77 L.Ed. 903. "Federal jurisdiction may be invoked to vindicate a right or privilege claimed under a federal statute. It......
  • Meoli v. Huntington Nat'l Bank (In re Teleservices Grp., Inc.), Case No. HG 05-00690
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Michigan
    • March 30, 2012
    ...36.A corporation "is a fiction created by law with intent that it should be acted on as if true." People of Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476, 480, 53 S. Ct. 447, 448 (1933) (quoting Klein v. Bd. of Supervisors, 282 U.S. 19, 24, 51 S. Ct. 15, 16 (1930)). 37.The issue previously aro......
  • Estate of Cornell v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC, No. 18-1245
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • November 13, 2018
    ...by federal law," or "such law was only indirectly and remotely" relevant in the litigation), cited in Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co. , 288 U.S. 476, 483–84, 53 S.Ct. 447, 77 L.Ed. 903 (1933) ("[Federal jurisdiction] may not be invoked ... merely because the plaintiff’s right to sue is derived......
  • Mailloux v. Mailloux, Nos. 75-2898
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • May 31, 1977
    ...discredited since their adoption, see Wright, supra, § 17, one of the most accepted is that set forth in Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476, 483, 53 S.Ct. 447, 449, 77 L.Ed. 903 Federal jurisdiction may be invoked to vindicate a right or privilege claimed under a federal statute. It......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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