Ex parte State Insurance Company

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United States Supreme Court

85 U.S. 417

Ex parte State Insurance Company

ON petition for a mandamus to the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Alabama, at Mobile. The case was thus:

Between December 14th, 1819, when Alabama was admitted into the Union, and the 3d of March, 1873, various statutes were passed fixing the judicial districts of the State and the powers of District Courts established for them. Among them were two acts, one of March 10th, 1824, [1] and the other of February 6th, 1839, [2] whose conjoint effect apparently was to divide the State into three districts, a northern, a middle (this latter embracing Barbour County, one of the counties of Alabama), and a southern, whose terms and sessions were to be held at Mobile. These acts gave to these different District Courts, in general terms, the jurisdiction and powers of Circuit Courts. [3]

With these various acts in force, one Kolb, a citizen of Barbour County, already mentioned as in the judicial district designated by Congress as the middle one, sued the State Insurance Company of Missouri, by process in attachment in a State court sitting at Euphala, in the county of Barbour aforesaid. On the 11th December, 1872, the insurance company applied to the said State court where the suit was brought, alleging its incorporation by and citizenship in Missouri, and praying for the removal of the suit 'into the next Circuit Court of the United States to be held in this the district where the suit is pending.' This petition was made, of course, pursuant to the right given in the twelfth section of the Judiciary Act, which says:

'If a suit be commenced in any State court . . . by a citizen of the State in which the suit is brought, against a citizen of another State, . . . and the defendant shall . . . file a petition for the removal of the cause from that into the next Circuit Court to be held in the district where the suit is pending, &c., . . . the cause shall there proceed as if it had been brought there by original process.'

The State court, on the 11th of January, 1873, made an order that the cause be removed out of this court into the Circuit Court of the United States at Mobile, Alabama, that being the Circuit Court of the United States for this district. And, on the 18th following, the proper papers were filed with the clerk of the Southern District.

On the 3d of March, 1873, after all this had been done, Congress passed an act relating to the Circuit and District Courts for the Middle and Northern Districts of Alabama, one section of which enacted, 'that so much of any act or acts of Congress as vested in the District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, . . . the power and jurisdiction of a Circuit Court be and the same is hereby repealed.' The act, which in two places spoke of the Circuit Court at Mobile as the Circuit Court for the District of Alabama, made several important changes in previously existing things.

On the 23d of December, 1873-after the passage of the statute just mentioned-Kolb, the plaintiff in the suit, appeared in the Circuit Court and moved to have the case stricken from the docket for want of jurisdiction, which order was made by the court, the circuit judge presiding.

The insurance company now applied to this court for a mandamus to the said Circuit Court, requiring it to proceed to try and determine the case.

Messrs. P. Phillips and J. T. Morgan, for the petitioner, made an elaborate examination of different statutes, including specially that of March 3d, 1873, and argued that in view of this legislation the Circuit Court at Mobile had original circuit court jurisdiction over the entire State, or made the State, so far as said Circuit Court was concerned, but one district. The learned counsel conceded that the act of March 3d, 1873, did not, in express terms, confer such jurisdiction upon the Circuit Court at Mobile, nor expressly enact that the State should constitute but one district for circuit court purposes.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  4 Stat. at Large, 9.

^2  5 Id. 315.

^3  The briefs of the petitioner's counsel referred to many acts having more or less bearing on the case. The Reporter refers to those which he deems specially pertinent; though he cannot affirm that it was on these that this court based its judgment.

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).