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RUST LAND & LUMBER COMPANY v. JACKSON ET AL.

decided: May 19, 1919.

RUST LAND & LUMBER COMPANY
v.
JACKSON ET AL.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.

Author: Pitney

[ 250 U.S. Page 72]

 MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the court.

This case was brought on for argument immediately following Arkansas v. Mississippi, No. 7, Original, this day disposed of, ante, 39.

It was a replevin suit, brought in the circuit court of one of the counties of Mississippi by defendants in error to recover certain timber taken by plaintiff in error from their possession under a claim of ownership. They recovered a verdict and judgment in the circuit court, and the judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the State, without opinion. Ownership of the timber was deemed to depend upon the ownership of the land from which it had been cut; and this was in dispute, and according to the theory of plaintiff in error was dependent upon the location of the state boundary. The land lay in the Mississippi River bottom, in the vicinity of Horseshoe Bend, where a portion of the former channel had been abandoned as the result of a sudden change that occurred in the year

[ 250 U.S. Page 731848]

     ; the river having broken through the neck of the Bend and formed a new channel there, with the result that in the course of time the former channel around the Bend was abandoned and in large part filled up, and its location as it was prior to the avulsion has become, after the lapse of so many years, difficult of ascertainment. The adjoining States whose common boundary is marked by the River at this point are in dispute as to its former location, and also as to whether the boundary ought to follow the middle of the former main channel of navigation or rather a line equidistant from the banks of the River at ordinary stage of water. To determine this controversy, the suit between the States was brought in this court, and it is still pending.

It is the contention of plaintiff in error that the judgment in the present case was based upon the determination of an issue which necessarily involved the location of the interstate boundary; and our first inquiry must be whether the judgment of the Supreme Court of Mississippi herein is reviewable in this court by writ of error. The judgment was rendered December 23, 1916, after the taking effect of the Act of September 6, 1916, c. 448, 39 Stat. 726, amendatory of § 237, Judicial Code, and hence is reviewable here, if at all, only by virtue of that act and in accordance with its provisions.

It is asserted that the issue involving the location of the boundary line between the States was submitted to the jury under instructions from the trial judge based upon a theory inconsistent with the true principle of decision as laid down by this court in Iowa v. Illinois, 147 U.S. 1; Arkansas v. Tennessee, 246 U.S. 158, and Cissna v. Tennessee, 246 U.S. 289, and that thereby plaintiff in error was deprived of a right, privilege, or immunity claimed under the Constitution of the United States and treaties made thereunder. Even if the record showed that such a right, privilege, or immunity was properly set up

[ 250 U.S. Page 74]

     and claimed in the state court, it of course is not maintained, nor could it be, that under § 237, Judicial Code, as amended, a federal question of this character would give us jurisdiction to review the resulting judgment by writ of error. Were that the only federal question, clearly it would at most furnish ground for a review by certiorari.

But it is insisted that the Supreme Court of the State, in the course of its review of the judgment of the circuit court, rendered an adverse decision upon the question of the validity of an authority exercised under the United States, and for this reason we have jurisdiction by writ of error under the amended § 237.

The question arose as follows: Plaintiff in error moved the Supreme Court to continue the cause until the decision by this court of the original action then and still pending between the States of Arkansas and Mississippi, in which the location of the disputed boundary at or near the land in question is involved. This motion at first was sustained; but afterwards the defendants in error moved to set aside the continuance upon these grounds: (1) That the decision of this court in the suit between the States would not be controlling in the present case because it would not be rendered upon the same testimony; (2) That the Supreme Court of Mississippi was an appellate tribunal without original jurisdiction, empowered only to affirm or reverse a decision of the circuit court, depending upon whether that court upon the evidence before it had reached a correct conclusion, and that there was no way in which the judgment of this court in the suit between the States could be introduced before the Supreme Court of Mississippi; and (3) Because the latter court was not in any way ...


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