Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

DETRES v. LIONS BUILDING CORPORATION

November 21, 1955

EUGINIA MEDINA DETRES ET AL.
v.
LIONS BUILDING CORPORATION ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hoffman, District Judge.

This action was brought by four surviving relatives of Juan Hipolito Gonzales Detres who was killed in an automobile accident said to have resulted from the intoxication of the driver of the car in which Detres was a passenger. The defendants are alleged to have sold the liquor which led to the intoxication of the driver and the subsequent accident. The plaintiffs' claim is based on the provisions of the Illinois Dram Shop Act, Ill.Rev.Stat. 1953, c. 43, § 135. Jurisdiction of this court is predicated on 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the plaintiffs all being citizens of Puerto Rico and the defendants citizens of the State of Illinois. Two of the defendants have moved to dismiss the action on the ground that the court does not have jurisdiction. It is their contention that Puerto Rico is no longer a territory as that term is used in Section 1332(b) of the Judicial Code (providing for diversity jurisdiction), and that if Puerto Rican citizenship should be held to be within the grant of diversity jurisdiction, Section 1332 is unconstitutional as an attempt to expand the jurisdiction which Congress may provide for the federal courts under Art. III, Sec. 2 of the United States Constitution. Notice was served on the Attorney General, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2403, that the constitutionality of an Act of Congress was being challenged, but the United States declined to intervene.

As it was enacted in 1948, when the Judicial Code was revised and codified, Section 1332 provides as follows:

    "(a) The district courts shall have original
  jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in
  controversy exceeds the sum or value of $3,000
  exclusive of interest and costs, and is between:

"(1) Citizens of different States:

    "(b) The word `States', as used in this section,
  includes the Territories and the District of
  Columbia."

The defendants say that with the creation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico the Island may no longer be considered a territory as the term is used in this section.

Puerto Rico came to the United States by cession from Spain under the Treaty of Paris of April 11, 1899, 30 Stat. 1754, as an aftermath of the Spanish-American War. In 1900, Congress organized it under a civil government by the terms of the Foraker Act, 31 Stat. 77. This was superseded by the Organic Act of 1917, Jones Act, 39 Stat. 951, 48 U.S.C.A. § 731 et seq., which, as amended from time to time, remained the governing force in Puerto Rico until 1950. Many rights of local autonomy were enjoyed by the Puerto Ricans under the Organic Act. On July 3, 1950, the President approved Public Law 600, an Act "To provide for the organization of a constitutional government by the people of Puerto Rico." 64 Stat. 319, 48 U.S.C.A. § 731b-731e. The preamble and first section of this Act provided:

    "Whereas the Congress of the United States by a
  series of enactments has progressively recognized the
  right of self-government of the people of Puerto
  Rico; and
    "Whereas under the terms of these congressional
  enactments an increasingly large measure of
  self-government has been achieved: Therefore
    "Be it enacted * * *, That, fully recognizing the
  principle of government by consent, this Act is now
  adopted in the nature of a compact so that the people
  of Puerto Rico may organize a government pursuant to
  a constitution of their own adoption."

It was also provided that the Act was to be submitted to the voters of Puerto Rico for acceptance or rejection and that upon approval the Legislature of Puerto Rico was authorized to call a constitutional convention. By Section 3 it was provided that upon adoption of the constitution by the people of Puerto Rico, the President of the United States was to transmit the constitution to Congress if he found that it conformed with the provisions of Public Law 600 and the "applicable" provisions of the United States Constitution. When approved by Congress, the constitution was to become effective in accordance with its terms. The Act also provided for the repeal of numerous sections of the Organic Act and said that the remaining sections, after the effective date of the constitution, should be known as the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act. The "compact" offered by Public Law 600 was approved by the voters of Puerto Rico on June 4, 1951; a constitutional convention was convened, and the constitution drafted by it was ratified by the people of Puerto Rico on March 3, 1952, 48 U.S.C.A. § 731d note. The President, finding that the constitution conformed with Public Law 600, submitted it to Congress which, with minor amendments, approved it in H.J.Res. 430, 66 Stat. 327, on July 3, 1952. The Governor of Puerto Rico proclaimed the constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to be in force on July 25, 1952.

Prior to the adoption of the Puerto Rican constitution and the establishment of the Commonwealth, the Island was organized and governed in a manner similar to that of other territories of the United States. While its legislature was given considerable powers over matters of local concern, the framework of government was prescribed by Congress, and the Organic Act served as the constitution of Puerto Rico. The Governor (until 1948) and the justices of the Supreme Court were appointed by the President, and Congress retained the power to modify or repeal acts of the insular legislature. It was clear that Puerto Rico qualified as a Territory for purposes of acts of Congress which included the Territories. People of Puerto Rico v. Shell Co., 1937, 302 U.S. 253, 58 S.Ct. 167, 82 L.Ed. 235; Kopel v. Bingham, 1909, 211 U.S. 468, 29 S.Ct. 190, 192, 53 L.Ed. 286; National Labor Relations Board v. Gonzalez Padin Co., 1 Cir., 1947, 161 F.2d 353; Crespo v. United States, 1 Cir., 1945, 151 F.2d 44, certiorari dismissed, 1946, 327 U.S. 758, 66 S.Ct. 520, 90 L.Ed. 991; Torres v. Hiatt, D.C.N.D.Ga. 1949, 83 F. Supp. 614. The Island conformed to one of the commonly quoted definitions of a territory as a "`portion of the country not included within the limits of any state, and not yet admitted as a state into the Union, but organized under the laws of Congress with a separate legislature, under a territorial governor and other officers appointed by the President and Senate of the United States.'" Kopel v. Bingham, 1909, 211 U.S. 468, 475, 29 S.Ct. 190, 192. See, also, In re Lane, 1890, 135 U.S. 443, 10 S.Ct. 760, 34 L.Ed. 219; National Bank v. County of Yankton, 1879, 101 U.S. 129, 25 L.Ed. 1046.

Puerto Rico was, however, always deemed to occupy a position somewhat different from that of the territories which ultimately became states and from that of Hawaii and Alaska. It was a completely organized territory but not a territory incorporated into the United States. Kopel v. Bingham, 1909, 211 U.S. 468, 476, 29 S.Ct. 190, 53 L.Ed. 286; National Labor Relations Board v. Gonzalez Padin Co., 1 Cir., 1947, 161 F.2d 353, 355; Cases v. United States, 1 Cir., 1942, 131 F.2d 916, 919-920, certiorari denied, Cases Velazquez v. United States, 1943, 319 U.S. 770, 63 S.Ct. 1431, 87 L.Ed. 1718. The principal effect of its unincorporated status was that only certain universally applicable provisions of the federal constitution extended to Puerto Rico. Balzac v. People of Porto Rico, 1922, 258 U.S. 298, 42 S.Ct. 343, 66 L.Ed. 627. (Sixth Amendment's guarantee of trial by jury in criminal cases applies to the Territories but not to unincorporated territory like Porto Rico); Cases v. United States, 1 Cir., 1942, 131 F.2d 916, certiorari denied, Cases Velazquez v. United States, 1943, 319 U.S. 770, 63 S.Ct. 1431, 87 L.Ed. 1718 (due process clause of Fifth Amendment is a restriction upon Congress with respect to Puerto Rico). It was also thought to mean that Congress was under no obligation to provide ultimate statehood for Puerto Rico, as it was for the incorporated territories. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico was a territory, and unquestionably the provisions for diversity jurisdiction in Section 1332 were thought to include citizens of Puerto Rico.

In this connection, brief reference to the history of this provision is relevant. Prior to 1940 Congress had never attempted to include citizens of the territories or of the District of Columbia within the provisions for diversity jurisdiction. Only citizens of the 48 states were entitled to invoke this jurisdiction. In 1940, Congress expanded diversity jurisdiction to include suits "between citizens of different States, or citizens of the District of Columbia, the Territory of Hawaii, or Alaska, and any State or Territory." Act of April 20, 1940, 54 Stat. 143. Under this wording the present suit — between citizens of Puerto Rico and citizens of one of the states — could not have been maintained in the federal courts although a suit between citizens of Puerto Rico and citizens of Hawaii could have been. The Reviser's Notes to the Judicial Code of 1948 indicate that the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.