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February 24, 1908



Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Moody

Author: Moody

[ 209 U.S. Page 28]

 MR. JUSTICE MOODY delivered the opinion of the court.

The plaintiff in error, a citizen of New York, brought this suit in equity in the Supreme Court of New York against the defendant railroad, a citizen of Minnesota, and the other defendant, its president, also a citizen of Minnesota. The complaint set forth in substance the following facts upon which the right to relief was claimed: The plaintiff was a stockholder in the defendant railroad at the time of the beginning of the

[ 209 U.S. Page 29]

     suit in 1906. Whether or not he was a stockholder at the time when the alleged wrongful acts were committed by the defendants does not appear by any allegation in the complaint. The defendant James J. Hill was a director and the president of the other defendant, the Great Northern Railway Company, and that railroad and its board of directors were under his absolute control. While holding these offices and exercising this control, in 1900 and 1901, Hill purchased, or caused to be purchased for his use, stock of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company of the par value of $25,000,000, at an average price of one hundred and fifty dollars a share. This purchase was made with the design of selling the stock at a higher price to the company of which he was a director and president. Subsequently, in 1901, while still holding his offices in the Great Northern Railway and exercising the same control over that corporation, he sold to it a large amount of the stock of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company owned by him, and made an unlawful profit of $10,000,000 on the transaction. Before bringing this suit the plaintiff demanded of the Great Northern Railway Company that it bring suit against Hill to compel him to account for and pay over to it the wrongful profit which he had obtained. The railroad refused to comply with this demand, and thereupon the plaintiff brought this suit as a stockholder in his own behalf, and in the behalf and for the benefit of other stockholders similarly situated. The prayer was that Hill should account for his profit and pay it to the Great Northern Railway Company with interest, and for general relief. On the defendants' petition the case was removed to the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, on the ground of diversity of citizenship of the plaintiff and the defendants. In that court the plaintiff was ordered to "replead the complaint herein according to the forms and practice prevailing in equity." This was done on November 9, 1906. The new complaint set forth the facts in greater detail and with some variations, but its substance and effect was

[ 209 U.S. Page 30]

     similar to that of the first complaint. The complaint did not conform to the requirements of Equity Rule 94, relating to suits of this nature, in that it failed to allege that the plaintiff was a shareholder at the time of the transactions of which he complains, or that his shares had devolved on him since by operation of law, or that the suit was not collusive, or the particulars of his efforts to procure action by the corporation defendant. The defendants then demurred separately to the bill and the defendant Hill subjoined to his demurrer an affidavit denying every allegation in it tending to show wrongful conduct on his part. Thereafter the plaintiff moved to remand the cause to the state court on the ground that the circuit Court was without jurisdiction over it. This motion was denied. The demurrer was sustained and the bill dismissed. The correctness of the ruling on the demurrer and the dismissal is not before us. The case comes here on direct appeal from the Circuit Court on the question of jurisdiction alone, certified in the following terms: "Now, therefore, the court hereby certifies to the Supreme Court of the United States the question of jurisdiction which has arisen upon the aforesaid motion to remand and the demurrers to the complaint, to wit: Whether or not the complainant's amended bill of complaint showed that there was such diversity of citizenship between the party complainant and the parties defendant in this cause as would be sufficient, under the provisions of the United States Revised Statutes to confer jurisdiction upon the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York of this cause, and whether this cause, as brought in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, was one over which this court would have had original jurisdiction, and was therefore removable into this court."

We consider nothing but the question of jurisdiction, and express no opinion upon the decision upon the demurrer which is not properly here. Schunk v. Moline, Milburn & Stoddart Co., 147 U.S. 500; Smith v. McKay, 161 U.S. 355; Mexican Central Railway Co. v. Eckman, 187 U.S. 429; Hennessy v.

[ 209 U.S. Page 31]

     really places them, and then may determine the jurisdictional question in view of this alignment. Removal Cases, 100 U.S. 457; Pacific Railroad v. Ketchum, 101 U.S. 289; Harter v. Kernochan, 103 U.S. 562, 566; Wilson v. Oswego Township, 151 U.S. 56, 63; Merchants' Cotton Press Co. v. Insurance Company of North America, 151 U.S. 368, 385; Evers v. Watson, 156 U.S. 527, 532. If this rule should be applied it would leave the parties here where the pleader has arranged them. It would doubtless be for the financial interests of the defendant railroad that the plaintiff should prevail. But that is not enough. Both defendants unite, as sufficiently appears by the petition and other proceedings, in resisting the plaintiff's claim of illegality and fraud. They are alleged to have engaged in the same illegal and fraudulent conduct, and the injury is alleged to have been accomplished by their joint action. The plaintiff's controversy is with both, and both are rightfully and necessarily made defendants, and neither can, for jurisdictional purposes, be regarded otherwise than as a defendant. Davenport v. Dows, 18 Wall. 626; The Central Railroad Company v. Mills, 113 U.S. 249; Railroad v. Grayson, 119 U.S. 240; Doctor v. Harrington, 196 U.S. 579; Groel v. United Electric Co., 132 Fed. Rep. 252, and see Chicago v. Mills, 204 U.S. 321. The case of Doctor v. Harrington is precisely in point on this branch of the case, and is conclusive. In that case the plaintiffs, stockholders in a corporation, brought an action in the Circuit Court against the corporation and Harrington, another stockholder, "who directed the management of the affairs of the corporation, dictated its policy, and selected its directors." It was alleged that Harrington fraudulently caused the corporation to make its promissory note without consideration, obtained a judgment on the note, and sold, on execution, for much less than their real value, the assets of the corporation to persons acting for his benefit. On the face of the pleadings there was the necessary diversity of citizenship, but it was insisted that the corporation, because its interest was the same as that of the plaintiff, should be regarded as a plaintiff.

[ 209 U.S. Page 33]

     The court below so aligned the corporation defendant, and, as that destroyed the diversity of citizenship, dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction. This court reversed the decree, saying, p. 587: "The ultimate interest of the corporation made defendant may be the same as that of the stockholder made plaintiff, but the corporation may be under a control antagonistic, and made to act in a way detrimental to his rights. In other words, his interests, and the interests of the corporation, may be made subservient to some illegal purpose. If a controversy hence arise, and the other conditions of jurisdiction exist, it can be litigated in a Federal court." There was therefore in the case at bar the diversity of citizenship which confers jurisdiction.

Second. Did the Circuit Court have jurisdiction of the subject matter of the litigation? It has already been shown that the plaintiff in his petition did not bring this case within the terms of Equity Rule 94, which is printed in the margin.*fn1 It may be noted that the plaintiff in Doctor v. Harrington, supra complied with the requirements of the rule. It is argued that a compliance with that rule is essential to the jurisdiction, and that a controversy of the general nature contemplated by the rule is beyond the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court, unless the plaintiff shows the existence of all the facts which the rule makes indispensable to his success in the suit. But this argument overlooks the purpose and nature of the rule. The rule simply expresses the principles which this court, after a review of the authorities, had declared in Hawes v. Oakland, 104 U.S. 450,

[ 209 U.S. Page 34]

     to be applicable in the decision of a stockholder's suit of the kind now under consideration. Neither the rule nor the decision from which it as derived deals with the question of the jurisdiction of the courts, but only prescribes the manner in which the jurisdiction shall be exercised. If a controversy of this general nature is brought in the Circuit Court and the necessary diversity of citizenship exists, but upon the pleadings or the proof it appears that the plaintiff has not shown a case within the decision in Hawes v. Oakland, or the rule of court declaratory of that decision, the bill should be dismissed for want of equity and not for want of jurisdiction. The dismissal of the bill would not be the denial but the assertion and exercise of jurisdiction. So it was that in Hawes v. Oakland the demurrer was sustained and the bill dismissed, not for want of jurisdiction, but, in the words of the court (p. 462), "because the appellant shows no standing in a court of equity -- no right in himself to prosecute this suit." The same order was made in Huntington v. Palmer, 104 U.S. 482, and Quincy v. Steele, 120 U.S. 241. This very question was considered by the court in Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Adams, 180 U.S. 28, where it said, p. 34: "Jurisdiction is the right to put the wheels of justice in motion and to proceed to the final determination of a cause upon the pleadings and evidence. It exists in the Circuit Courts of the United States under the express terms of the act of August 13, 1888, if the plaintiff be a citizen of one State, the defendant a citizen of another, if the amount in controversy exceed $2,000, and the defendant be properly served with process within the district. Excepting certain quasi -jurisdictional facts, necessary to be averred in particular cases and immaterial here, these are the only facts required to vest jurisdiction of the controversy in the Circuit Courts. It may undoubtedly be shown in defense that plaintiff has no right under the allegations of this bill or the facts of the case to bring suit, but that is no defect of jurisdiction, but of title. It is as much so as if it were sought to dismiss an action of ejectment for want of jurisdiction, by showing that the plaintiff

[ 209 U.S. Page 35]

     had no title to the land in controversy. At common law neither an infant, an insane person, married woman, alien enemy, nor person having no interest in the cause of action, can maintain a suit in his or her own name; but it never would be contended that the court would not have jurisdiction to inquire whether such disability in fact existed, nor that the case could be dismissed on motion for want of jurisdiction. The right to bring a suit is entirely distinguishable from the right to prosecute the particular bill. One goes to the maintenance of any action; the other to the maintenance of the particular action. Thus it was held in the case of Smith v. McKay, 161 U.S. 355, and Blythe v. Hinckley, 173 U.S. 501, that it was not a question of the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court that the action should have been brought at law instead of in equity. The question in each case is whether the plaintiff has brought himself within the language of the jurisdictional act, whatever be the form of his action or whether it be in law or in equity. The objection that plaintiff has failed to comply with Equity Rule 94 may be raised by demurrer, but the admitted power to decide this question is also an admission that the court has jurisdiction of the case." These observations may not have been strictly necessary to the disposition of the case, but they declare the true purpose and effect of the rule. The jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is prescribed by laws enacted by Congress in pursuance of the Constitution and this court by its rules has no power to increase or diminish the jurisdiction thus created, though it may regulate its exercise in any manner not inconsistent with the laws of the United States. Congress has given to the Circuit Courts jurisdiction of all suits of a civil nature (in which the matter in dispute is of a certain value) where "there shall be a controversy between citizens of different States," language taken from that part of the Constitution which defines the judicial power. There was such a controversy in the case at bar, and the Circuit Court had cognizance of it.

The judgment of the Circuit Court is


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