網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

Livingston v. Van Ingen.

against any one ; while the plaintiffs, if aggrieved, will be entitled to a threefold recompense for any subtraction or diminution of profits to which they may for some time be exposed. This too, it is expected, will be done without the previous institution of any action at law, and without the opportunity of any other proper mode of trial to decide on the matters which the defendants are authorized by law to allege in their defence. When process of such high import and serious consequences is applied for, it becomes a Court, and still more a Judge at his chambers, to inquire with more than ordinary circumspection into his powers, and to stay his hand, unless he shall be fully and entirely satisfied of his jurisdiction; that the merits of the complainants are very great, and that they are eminently entitled to the favour of the public, and to every reasonable protection which government can afford, no one will deny. But when we are inquiring not into what ought, but into what has been done, considerations of this kind, however naturally or excusably they may be pressed upon a Court, can afford but little aid in coming to a correct decision.

A Judge of the Supreme Court may in vacation allow a writ of injunction in those cases only, where it may be granted by the Supreme or a Circuit Court.

That the Supreme Court, unless on appeal, has the power of awarding this writ is not pretended. The examination therefore has been properly confined to the authority of a Circuit Court. If the Circuit Court of this district possesses no jurisdiction over the cause, it follows that the present application must fail.

This jurisdiction is denied on the ground, that the parties, being all citizens of the same state, have no right to apply to the equity side of the Court for relief by original bill, unless jurisdiction in such case be given by some act of Congress.

By the federal constitution, the judicial power is vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as Congress

Livingston v. Van Ingen.

may from time to time ordain and establish, and extends to all cases in law and equity, arising under the constitution and laws of the United States, and controversies between citizens of different states. A further enumeration of its powers is not necessary for understanding the present question.

By the judiciary act, the Circuit Courts have original cognizance, concurrent with state Courts, of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity, of a certain value, where the United States are plaintiffs, or an alien is a party; or where the suit is between a citizen of the state where it is brought, and a citizen of another state.

By an act passed in 1800, an action on the case, founded on that, and a former act, is given to a patentee whose rights are invaded, to be prosecuted in the Circuit Court of the United States, having jurisdiction thereof, for a'sum equal to three times the actual damage sustained.

But this being a suit in equity, it is asked by what authority it is brought here, unless the parties be citizens of different states : and much has been said of the impropriety of an inferior tribunal extending its jurisdiction to cases not particularly assigned to it.

If these Courts be not inferior in the technical sense of the books, which they most certainly are not, they are so in some respects. They are not only so considered by the constitution, but are in fact subordinate to the Supreme Court, and notwithstanding their high and responsible original powers, which extend to so many and such important cases, of a criminal and civil nature, and by appeal, to admiralty and maritime causes, there can be no doubt that their jurisdiction is special and limited, both in regard to the nature of the cases on which they can decide, and the character of the parties who can come into them. It is as certain, that they are indebted to Congress, under the constitution, for their creation, and that instead of extending their powers as the exigencies

Livingston v. Van Ingen.

of suitors may require, or may by themselves be thought reasonable, they have hitherto been regarded as dependent on that body for all the powers they possess. Owing as they do their existence to Congress, from them must necessarily flow that portion of the general judicial power which, by the constitution, they have a right to divide among the inferior Courts that may be established. Thus constituted and organized, little would it become them to transcend a jurisdiction, which the constitution intended should be limited at the discretion of the legislature, and which Congress have circumscribed accordingly. While moving within their legitimate sphere, as marked out by the legislature, they may hope to give satisfaction, and to inspire confidence in the important department of government of which they form a branch. It would seem then enough to say that there being no act of Congress conferring on these Courts a right in any case to take cognizance of a suit in equity, between citizens of the same state, this Court can have no jurisdiction of the present cause, which is between partics of that character. This seemed to be almost conceded, unless by the constitution there was secured to these Courts certain powers which might be called into exercise without waiting for any special authority from Congress. To show that this was the case, it was said, that this being a case arising under the laws of the United States, and being found in the constitutional enumeration of cases of federal cognizance, it must, whether allotted by Congress to a particular tribunal or not, be cognizable by one or other of the Courts which may be established. This argument proceeds on a “supposition that the whole power of the judiciary must always reside somewhere, so as to be called into operation as occasions may require. If Congress had created inferior Courts without any designation as to the cases of which they were to take cognizance, it is said they would have concurrent jurisdiction of all cases mentioned in the

Livingston v. Van logen.

constitution, except of those which were therein exclusively devolved on the Supreme Court. That this being a case of chancery cognizance, and the District Court not possessing equity power, must, ex necessitate, be triable where such powers exist, or that there will be a failure of justice; and the danger of permitting Congress in any way to abridge the objects of cognizance secured by the constitution to the judiciary, and, through them, to the people of the United States, was expatiated on at some length. As Congress cannot add to those powers, it should not be admitted for a moment, it was argued, that they possessed the right of substracting from them, or of permitting them to be dormant, by not legislating sufficiently. Without stopping to inquire whether there be any ground for these apprehensions, or denying any weight to the argument, it will not be deemed disrespectful to the counsel who advanced it, if it is not thought necessary to examine the course of reasoning, from which this conclusion is presumed to follow, because on this point we are not without authority. The Supreme Court has decided, and after an argument, which, if we except the one to which I have just had the pleasure and honour of attending, has perhaps never been surpassed on any occasion; that if jurisdiction of cases arising under the laws of the United States be not conferred on the Circuit Courts by an act of Congress, they cannot take cognizance of them. The case of the bank of the United States against Deveaux, is here referred to, which was decided in February term, 1809, a report of which is not yet pubJished.

It was there made one question, whether a right was conferred on the bank to sue in these Courts by its act of incorporation, or any other law of Congress. It was decided not only that the Circuit Court derived no jurisdiction over a case arising under the laws of the United States from the judiciary act, that class of cases not being provided for by it, but

Livingston v. Van Ingen.

that from the law which incorporates it, the bank acquired no right to bring an action in those Courts, although there were expressions in that act, which it was very strongly insisted on, gave it to them. In support of this decision, if it required any to render it binding, reference might be made to a contemporaneous exposition of the constitution by the great and wise men who composed the legislature that organized the judiciary, and to what appears to have been the understanding of Congress from that time to the present day; for whenever it was intended that these Courts should take cognizance of a case arising under any law of the United States, such power was expressly delegated to one of the federal Courts, Congress well knowing that the judiciary act was silent on this point, and not supposing that any such power by the constitution was given to the Circuit Court. This too may be collected from an act that passed in 1800, which, in terms, gave to the Courts then erected, jurisdiction over this class of cases, but which act, being afterwards repealed, although not on account of this clause, left us as before, without any general provision on the subject. If other evidences are wanting that the Supreme Court has not fallen into so great an error, as it was thought to have done by this decision, it might be collected from the journal of the Senate of the United States. There we find that the judiciary act was prepared by a committee consisting of a member from each state, most if not all professional men, and it cannot be believed that, in a law drawn with so much care, and embracing such a variety of provisions, so important an omission was casual. It must have been the result of much reflection, and shows their sense at least, that Congress were not bound to clothe the Courts which they might create with all the powers which by the constitution they had a right to confer. When it is recollected that three gentlemen of this committee were afterwards judges of the Courts of the United States, an allusion to what

« 上一頁繼續 »