Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company v. Stude/Dissent Black

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United States Supreme Court

346 U.S. 574

Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company  v.  Stude

 Argued: Jan. 18, 1954. --- Decided: Dec 2, 3, 1953

Mr. Justice BLACK, dissenting.

I think the railroad has a right to have its case tried in the United States District Court. Congress has given such courts power to try any case that is (1) a 'civil' action, (2) between 'Citizens of different States', (3) a 'controversy,' and (4) involves a matter which 'exceeds the sum or value of $3,000 exclusive of interest and costs'. 28 U.S.C. § 1332, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1332. If a complaint alleges these four things a district court has jurisdiction. Here the railroad's complaint shows all four. The case is plainly a 'civil' action, not a criminal one. The railroad is a 'citizen' of Delaware and the other parties are 'citizens' of Iowa. There is a 'controversy' about transferring title to property and how much the railroad must pay for it. And the dispute concerns more than $3,000-the owners want $23,888.60, the railroad is willing to pay only $10,000. The foregoing allegations were sufficient to establish and did establish district court jurisdiction. Other facts were also alleged. If these facts were relevant to nonjurisdictional issues they were properly alleged; if immaterial they could have been stricken. In any event, a court cannot lose its power to act merely because of unnecessary words. A point is made of the railroad's reference to certain prior state proceedings as though it had a right to 'appeal' to the federal court from these proceedings. But assuming that the railroad confidently believed it had a right to appeal from the state commission, and therefore put a wrong label on its civil action, the District Court was still under a duty to try the case. After all, the railroad simply asked the court to fix damages for the property taken at 'not to exceed $10,000,' and for 'such further relief as may be just and proper under the circumstances.' And the pendency of a similar condemnation proceeding in the state court certainly did not destroy the federal court's jurisdiction. Nor did the District Court lose its jurisdiction because the railroad failed to invoke Rule 71A or to observe its procedure. In trying the case, the court should of course require observance of the Rule, if applicable, but failure of the railroad to comply with it is no sufficient reason for the court's refusal to settle the controversy. All of the alleged procedural mistakes attributed to the railroad could easily have been cured; none could possibly justify a final, unconditional dismissal of its cause of action. See Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 66 S.Ct. 773, 90 L.Ed. 939; Brown v. Western Ry. of Alabama, 338 U.S. 294, 298 299, 303, 70 S.Ct. 105, 107-108, 110, 94 L.Ed. 100.


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).