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MARTINEZ v. LA ASOCIACION DE SENORAS DAMAS DEL SANTO ASILO DE PONCE.

decided: February 23, 1909.

MARTINEZ
v.
LA ASOCIACION DE SENORAS DAMAS DEL SANTO ASILO DE PONCE.



APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR PORTO RICO.

Author: Moody

[ 213 U.S. Page 21]

 MR. JUSTICE MOODY delivered the opinion of the court.

The appellee, alleging itself to be "a charitable corporation, organized and existing under the laws of the Kingdom of Spain," brought a bill in equity in the District Court of the United States for Porto Rico against the appellants, alleging them to be citizens of Porto Rico. The object of the suit, generally described, is to assert title to certain lands in Porto Rico, and its determination turns upon the construction of the will of Juan Bautisti Silva, an inhabitant of Porto Rico, who died in 1875. The suit, therefore, does not arise under the Constitution, laws or a treaty of the United States. A decree was entered in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendants appealed to this court.

Before entering upon a consideration of the merits of the cause the jurisdiction of the court below to entertain it, which is questioned, must be passed upon. The District Court of the United States for Porto Rico was created, and its jurisdiction defined, by the act of April 12, 1900, establishing a civil government for Porto Rico, 31 Stat. 77, chapter 191, as amended by the act of March 2, 1901, 31 Stat. 953, chapter 812. By § 34 of the first act it was provided that --

"Porto Rico shall constitute a judicial district to be called the District of Porto Rico, . . . the District Court for said district shall be called the District Court of the United States for Porto Rico . . . and shall have, in addition to the ordinary jurisdiction of District Courts of the United States, jurisdiction of all cases cognizant in the Circuit Courts of the United States, and shall proceed therein in the same manner as a Circuit Court."

The jurisdiction was further defined in § 3 of the last act, which provided that "the jurisdiction of the District Court of the United States for Porto Rico in civil cases shall, in addition

[ 213 U.S. Page 22]

     to that conferred by the act of April 12, 1900, extend to and embrace controversies where the parties, or either of them, are citizens of the United States, or citizens or subjects of a foreign State or States, wherein the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive of interest or costs, the sum or value of one thousand dollars."

If the court below had jurisdiction, it must be under the amending act and because the plaintiff was either a citizen of the United States or a citizen or subject to a foreign state. No other ground of jurisdiction has been or can be suggested. It was found by the District Court that the plaintiff was a citizen or subject of Spain and the jurisdiction was sustained upon that theory. Counsel in this court have attempted to sustain the jurisdiction on the ground that the plaintiff, if not a citizen or subject of Spain, is a citizen of the United States. If the plaintiff was neither a citizen of the United States, nor a citizen or subject of Spain, it is clear that the court was without jurisdiction.

We assume, in favor of the plaintiff, that it was a corporation organized in 1863 by a decree of the Spanish Crown. That decree incorporated an asylum of charity in Ponce. The purposes of the incorporation are described in article 1 of the bylaws, which follows;

"This association recognizes as its principal object the alleviation of human suffering, and for this purpose it will establish an asylum for the poor of the district. When its resources permit it to give its attention to other objects related to its purpose it will establish schools for poor children of both sexes, under the supervision of Sisters of Charity."

The incorporators were all residents of Ponce, and all the purposes of the corporation were to be accomplished and all its business done in that locality.

The first question is, whether, after the ratification of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain, the plaintiff corporation ...


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