Commonwealth Bank of Kentucky v. Griffith

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

39 U.S. 56

Commonwealth Bank of Kentucky  v.  Griffith

IN error to the Supreme Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Missouri.

Mr. M'Ginnis, of counsel for the defendant in error, moved the Court to dismiss this writ of error for want of jurisdiction.

The action was originally instituted in the Ninth Judicial Circuit of the state of Missouri, on a promissory note given by the defendant in error to the Commonweath Bank of Kentucky, for the notes of that bank, to the amount of the promissory note. To this action the defendant pleaded several pleas; and among them was one which presented the questions whether the charter of the Commonwealth Bank of Kentucky was a violation of the Constitution of the United States, and whether the notes of the bank were not 'bills of credit.' The judgment of the Circuit Court was given in favour of the plaintiff, and the defendant removed the cause to the Supreme Court of Missouri by a writ of error.

In the Supreme Court, the judgment of the Circuit Court was reversed; the Court deciding that the notes of the bank were 'bills of credit,' and prohibited by the Constitution of the United States. The Bank of the Commonwealth prosecuted this writ of error, under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789.

Mr. M'Ginnis stated that the only question in the case was, the constitutionality of the charter of the Commonwealth Bank. The Supreme Court of Missouri decided that it was void.

This is not a casw within the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act. The decision brought up from the state Court was against the validity of the statute of Kentucky; and it is only when the validity of a state law, as opposed to the Constitution or laws of the United States, has been decided to be in favour of that validity, that the provision of the section in reference to such questions operates. If the Supreme Court of Missouri had decided in favour of the Kentucky law, the case could come to this Court. This would be a case in which there might be supposed to have been an infraction of the Constitution of the United States; but there is no necessity for an interference with the decisions of state tribunals, where there is no interference with the Constitution. No principle can be urged which would justify such a construction of the Judiciary Act. The protection of the Constitution of the United States was its object, and exclusively so.

Mr. M'Ginnis cited Crowell vs. Randal, 10 Peters, 391; and the case referred to in the opinion of the Court.

Mr. Crittenden, for the plaintiff in error, opposed the motion. He referred to the provision in the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, which authorizes writs of error in cases where is drawn in question the validity of a statute, and the decision in against it.

The state of Kentucky, in the exercise of its reserved rights, had established the Bank of the Commonwealth. She claims under this authority, and relies on the clause of the Constitution which declares all powers not granted by the Constitution to be reserved. She says that by the decision of the Supreme Court of Missouri she is interrupted in the exercise of her reserved rights. She claims to have these rights guarantied to her, and their exercise protected by this Court.

Mr. Chief Justice TANEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

Notes[edit]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).