Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States

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Professor Solimine is received his B. He received his J.

"Narrowing the Nation's Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States," by Matthew Fogelson

Michael E. Solimine Donald P. Schott Scholarship Award Harold C. Michael Dimino and Bradley Smith. Emeritus Robert J. Martineau, Prof. James L. Articles and Essays. Rafael Gely. Tracey George. Once jurisdiction has been acquired through allegation of a federal question not plainly wanting in substance, a federal court may decide any issue necessary to the disposition of a case, notwithstanding that other non-federal questions of fact and law may be involved therein.

If the federal claim, though substantial enough to confer jurisdiction, was dismissed before trial, or if the state claim substantially predominated, the court would be justified in dismissing the state claim. United States , by a 5-to-4 vote the Court firmly disapproved of the pendent party concept and cast considerable doubt on the other prongs of pendent jurisdiction as well. Pendent party jurisdiction, Justice Scalia wrote for the Court, was within the constitutional grant of judicial power, but to be operable it must be affirmatively granted by congressional enactment.

Thus, these interrelated doctrinal standards now seem well-grounded. A conceptually difficult doctrine, which approaches the verge of a serious constitutional gap, is the concept of protective jurisdiction. Put forward in controversial cases, the doctrine has neither been rejected nor accepted by the Supreme Court.

In Verlinden B. Federal substantive law was not applicable, that resting either on state or international law.

Refusing to consider protective jurisdiction, the Court found that the statute regulated foreign commerce by promulgating rules governing sovereign immunity from suit and was a law requiring interpretation as a federal-question matter. That the doctrine does raise constitutional doubts is perhaps grounds enough to avoid reaching it. Because of the sensitivity of federal-state relations and the delicate nature of the matters presented in litigation touching upon them, jurisdiction to review decisions of a state court is dependent in its exercise not only upon ascertainment of the existence of a federal question but upon a showing of exhaustion of state remedies and of the finality of the state judgment.

Because the application of these standards to concrete facts is neither mechanical nor nondiscretionary, the Justices have often been divided over whether these requisites to the exercise of jurisdiction have been met in specific cases submitted for review by the Court. It must be the final word of a final court. When the judgment of a state court rests on an adequate, independent determination of state law, the Court will not review the resolution of the federal questions decided, even though the resolution may be in error.

It is found in the partitioning of power between the state and Federal judicial systems and in the limitations of our own jurisdiction. Our only power over state judgments is to correct them to the extent that they incorrectly adjudge federal rights. And our power is to correct wrong judgments, not to revise opinions. We are not permitted to render an advisory opinion, and if the same judgment would be rendered by the state court after we corrected its views of Federal laws, our review could amount to nothing more than an advisory opinion.

It is, of course, the responsibility of the Court to determine for itself the answer to both questions. The first question, whether there is a nonfederal ground, may be raised by several factual situations. A state court may have based its decision on two grounds, one federal, one nonfederal. Several factors affect the answer to the second question, whether the nonfederal ground is adequate. In order to preclude Supreme Court review, the nonfederal ground must be broad enough, without reference to the federal question, to sustain the state court judgment; it must be independent of the federal question; and it must be tenable.

The earliest interpretation of the grant of original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court came in the Judiciary Act of , which conferred on the federal district courts jurisdiction of suits to which a consul might be a party. This legislative interpretation was sustained in in a circuit court case in which the judges held the Congress might vest concurrent jurisdiction involving consuls in the inferior courts and sustained an indictment against a consul. The leading case is Ohio ex rel.

Popovici v. Agler , in which a Rumanian vice-consul contested an Ohio judgment against him for divorce and alimony. In United States v. Another question concerns the official status of a person claiming to be an ambassador or consul. The Court has refused to review the decision of the Executive with respect to the public character of a person claiming to be a public minister and has laid down the rule that it has the right to accept a certificate from the Department of State on such a question.

The Court held that it includes only persons accredited to the United States by foreign governments. The admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the federal courts had its origins in the jurisdiction vested in the courts of the Admiral of the English Navy. Prior to independence, vice-admiralty courts were created in the Colonies by commissions from the English High Court of Admiralty.

After independence, the states established admiralty courts, from which at a later date appeals could be taken to a court of appeals set up by Congress under the Articles of Confederation. Though closely related, the words are not synonyms.

A long struggle between the admiralty and common law courts had, however, in the course of time resulted in a considerable curtailment of English admiralty jurisdiction. A much broader conception of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction existed in the United States at the time of the framing of the Constitution than in the Mother Country. The Consti- tution does not identify the source of the substantive law to be applied in the federal courts in cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, the grant of power to the federal courts in Article III necessarily implies the existence of a substantive maritime law which, if they are required to do so, the federal courts can fashion for themselves. In The Lottawanna , Justice Bradley undertook a definitive exposition of the subject. The Constitution does not define it. It certainly could not have been the intention to place the rules and limits of maritime law under the disposal and regulation of the several States, as that would have defeated the uniformity and consistency at which the Constitution aimed on all subjects of a commercial character affecting the intercourse of the States with each other or with foreign states.

Congress undoubtedly has authority under the commercial power, if no other, to introduce such changes as are likely to be needed. The act was passed in amendment of the maritime law of the country, and the power to make such amendments is coextensive with that law. It is not confined to the boundaries or class of subjects which limit and characterize the power to regulate commerce; but, in maritime matters, it extends to all matters and places to which the maritime law extends. The law administered by federal courts in admiralty is therefore an amalgam of the general maritime law insofar as it is acceptable to the courts, modifications of that law by congressional amendment, the common law of torts and contracts as modified to the extent constitutionally possible by state legislation, and international prize law.

Of this power there has been uniform agreement among the Justices of the Court. Admiralty and maritime ju- risdiction comprises two types of cases: 1 those involving acts committed on the high seas or other navigable waters, and 2 those involving contracts and transactions connected with shipping employed on the seas or navigable waters. In the first category, which includes prize cases and torts, injuries, and crimes committed on the high seas, jurisdiction is determined by the locality of the act, while in the second category subject matter is the primary determinative factor.

Precedent and usage are helpful insofar as they exclude or include certain common types of contract. Maritime torts include injuries to persons, damages to property arising out of collisions or other negligent acts, and violent dispossession of property. From the earliest days of the Republic, the federal courts sitting in admiralty have been held to have exclusive jurisdiction of prize cases.

Finally, admiralty and maritime jurisdiction includes the seizure and forfeiture of vessels engaged in activities in violation of the laws of nations or municipal law, such as illicit trade, infraction of revenue laws, and the like. Procedure in admiralty jurisdiction differs in few respects from procedure in actions at law, but the differences that do exist are significant.

Forfeiture to the crown for violation of the laws of the sovereign was in English law an exception to the rule that admiralty has exclusive jurisdiction over in rem maritime actions and was thus considered a common-law remedy. Although the Supreme Court sometimes has used language that would confine all proceedings in rem to admiralty courts, such actions in state courts have been sustained in cases of forfeiture arising out of violations of state law.

Perhaps the most significant admiralty court difference in procedure from civil courts is the absence of a jury trial in admiralty actions, with the admiralty judge trying issues of fact as well as of law. Although he was a vigorous exponent of the expansion of admiralty jurisdiction, Justice Story for the Court in The Steamboat Thomas Jefferson adopted a restrictive English rule confining admiralty jurisdiction to the high seas and upon rivers as far as the ebb and flow of the tide extended.

This ruling laid the basis for subsequent judicial extension of jurisdiction over all waters, salt or fresh, tidal or not, which are navigable in fact. Extension of admiralty and mari- time jurisdiction to navigable waters within a state does not, however, of its own force include general or political powers of government. Thus, in the absence of legislation by Congress, the states through their courts may punish offenses upon their navigable waters and upon the sea within one marine league of the shore.

The boundaries of federal and state competence, both legislative and judicial, in this area remain imprecise, and federal judicial determinations have notably failed to supply definiteness. During the last century, the Supreme Court generally permitted two overlapping systems of law to coexist in an uneasy relationship.

Narrowing the Nation's Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States

The federal courts in admiralty applied the general maritime law, supplemented in some instances by state law which created and defined certain causes of action. Congress required three opportunities to legislate to meet the problem created by the decision, the lack of remedy for maritime workers to recover for injuries resulting from the negligence of their employers. Moreover, it took from the states all power, by legislation or judicial decision, to contravene the essential purposes of, or to work material injury to, characteristic features of such law or to interfere with its proper harmony and uniformity in its international and interstate relations.

Travelers Ins. Because injured parties could obtain a jury trial in Jones Act suits, there was little attempted recourse under the savings clause to state law claims and thus no need to explore the line between applicable and inapplicable state law. Skovgaard , the Court held that a state wrongful death statute encompassed claims both for negligence and unseaworthiness in the instance of a land-based worker killed when on board ship in navigable water; the Court divided five-to-four, however, in holding that the standards of the duties to furnish a seaworthy vessel and to use due care were created by the state law as well and not furnished by general maritime concepts.

United States , a suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act for recovery for a death by drowning in a navigable Oregon river of an employee of a contractor engaged in repairing the federally owned Bonneville Dam, a divided Court held that liability was to be measured by the standard of care expressed in state law, notwithstanding that the standard was higher than that required by maritime law.

One area existed, however, in which beneficiaries of a deceased seaman were denied recovery. The Jones Act provided a remedy for wrongful death resulting from negligence, but not for one caused by unseaworthiness alone; in Gillespie v. United States Steel Corp. Thus did matters stand until , when the Court, in a unanimous opinion in Moragne v.

States Marine Lines , overruled its earlier cases and held that a right of recovery for wrongful death is sanctioned by general maritime law and that no statute is needed to bring the right into being. The Court was careful to note that the cause of action created in Moragne would not, like the state wrongful death statutes in Gillespie , be held precluded by the Jones Act, so that the survivor of a seaman killed in navigable waters within a state would have a cause of action for negligence under the Jones Act or for unseaworthiness under the general maritime law.

Indeed, all the usual incidents appertaining to a personal sovereign, in relation to contracts, and suing, and enforcing rights, so far as they are within the scope of the powers of the government, belong to the United States, as they do to other sovereigns. In the absence of statutory provisions to the contrary, such suits are initiated by the Attorney General in the name of the United States. By the Judiciary Act of , and subsequent amendments to it, Congress has vested in the federal district courts jurisdiction to hear all suits of a civil nature at law or in equity brought by the United States as party plaintiff.

Controversies to which the United States is a party include suits brought against states as party defendants. The first such suit occurred in United States v. North Carolina , which was an action by the United States to recover upon bonds issued by North Carolina. Although no question of jurisdiction was raised, in deciding the case on its merits in favor of the state, the Court tacitly assumed that it had jurisdiction of such cases. Suits brought by the United States have, however, been infrequent. All of them have arisen since , and they have become somewhat more common since That year the Supreme Court decided a dispute between the United States and Minnesota over land patents issued to the state by the United States in breach of its trust obligations to the Indian.

West Virginia , the Court refused to take jurisdiction of a suit in equity brought by the United States to determine the navigability of the New and Kanawha Rivers on the ground that the jurisdiction in such suits is limited to cases and controversies and does not extend to the adjudication of mere differences of opinion between the officials of the two governments. A few years earlier, however, it had taken jurisdiction of a suit by the United States against Utah to quiet title to land forming the beds of certain sections of the Colorado River and its tributaries with the states.

Pursuant to the general rule that a sovereign cannot be sued in its own courts, the judicial power does not extend to suits against the United States unless Congress by statute consents to such suits. This rule first emanated in embryonic form in an obiter dictum by Chief Justice Jay in Chisholm v. The doctrine of the exemption of the United States from suit was repeated in various subsequent cases, without discussion or examination.

Lee that the Court examined the rule and the reasons for it, and limited its application accordingly. Because suits against the United States can be maintained only by congressional consent, it follows that they can be brought only in the manner prescribed by Congress and subject to the restrictions imposed. United States v. Lee , a 5-to-4 decision, qualified earlier holdings that a judgment affecting the property of the United States was in effect against the United States, by ruling that title to the Arlington estate of the Lee family, then being used as a national cemetery, was not legally vested in the United States but was being held illegally by army officers under an unlawful order of the President.

United States , which held that a state cannot sue the United States, most of the cases involving sovereign immunity from suit since have been cases against officers, agencies, or corporations of the United States where the United States has not been named as a party defendant. Thus, it has been held that a suit against the Secretary of the Treasury to review his decision on the rate of duty to be exacted on imported sugar would disturb the whole revenue system of the government and would in effect be a suit against the United States.

Schwalby , holding that an action of trespass against an army officer to try title in a parcel of land occupied by the United States as a military reservation was a suit against the United States because a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs would have been a judgment against the United States. Subsequent cases reaffirm the rule of United States v. Lee that, where the right to possession or enjoyment of property under general law is in issue, the fact that defendants claim the property as officers or agents of the United States does not make the action one against the United States until it is determined that they were acting within the scope of their lawful authority.

Supreme Court of the United States

Larson v. Chief Justice Vinson and a majority of the Court looked upon the suit as one brought against the Administrator in his official capacity, acting under a valid statute and therefore a suit against the United States. It held that, although an officer in such a situation is not immune from suits for his own torts, his official action, though tortious, cannot be enjoined or diverted, because it is also the action of the sovereign. Suits against officers involving the doctrine of sovereign immunity have been classified into four general groups by Justice Frankfurter.

In general these suits are maintainable. The multiplica- tion of government corporations during periods of war and depression has provided one motivation for limiting the doctrine of sovereign immunity. RFC , the Court held that the government does not become a conduit of its immunity in suits against its agents or instrumentalities merely because they do its work.

Nor does the creation of a government corporation confer upon it legal immunity. Whether Congress endows a public corporation with governmental immunity in a specific instance is a matter of ascertaining the congressional will. Moreover, it has been held that waivers of governmental immunity in the case of federal instrumentalities and corporations should be construed liberally.

The extension of federal judicial power to controversies between states and the vesting of original jurisdiction in the Supreme Court of suits to which a state is a party had its origin in experience. Prior to independence, disputes between colonies claiming charter rights to territory were settled by the Privy Council. When the Philadelphia Convention met in , serious disputes over boundaries, lands, and river rights involved ten states. Since , however, as the result of the increasing mobility of population and wealth and the effects of technology and industrialization, other types of cases have occurred with increasing frequency.

Of the earlier ex- amples of suits between states, that between New Jersey and New York is significant for the application of the rule laid down earlier in Chisholm v. Georgia that the Supreme Court may proceed ex parte if a state refuses to appear when duly summoned. The long drawn out litigation between Rhode Island and Massachusetts is of even greater significance for its rulings, after the case had been pending for seven years, that though the Constitution does not extend the judicial power to all controversies between states, yet it does not exclude any, that a boundary dispute is a justiciable and not a political question, and that a prescribed rule of decision is unnecessary in such cases.

From the time of such submission, the question ceases to be a political one, to be decided by the sic volo, sic jubeo , of political power; it comes to the court, to be decided by its judgment, legal discretion and solemn consideration of the rules of law appropriate to its nature as a judicial question, depending on the exercise of judicial power; as it is bound to act by known and settled principles of national or municipal jurisprudence, as the case requires.

Beginning with Missouri v. Such suits have been especially frequent in the western states, where water is even more of a treasure than elsewhere, but they have not been confined to any one region.

U.S. Supreme Court

In Kansas v. Colorado , the Court established the principle of the equitable division of river or water resources between conflicting state interests. In New Jersey v. It offers a necessity of life that must be rationed among those who have power over it. New York has the physical power to cut off all the water within its jurisdiction. But clearly the exercise of such a power to the destruction of the interest of lower States could not be tolerated. And on the other hand equally little could New Jersey be permitted to require New York to give up its power altogether in order that the River might come down to it undiminished.

Both States have real and substantial interests in the River that must be reconciled as best they may be. In Texas v. New Jersey , the Court adjudicated a multistate dispute about which state should be allowed to escheat intangible property consisting of uncollected small debts held by a corporation. Emphasizing that the states could not constitutionally provide a rule of settlement and that no federal statute governed the matter, the Court evaluated the possible rules and chose the one easiest to apply and least likely to lead to continuing disputes.

Be it what it may, these parties have a constitutional right to come into the Courts of the Union. In other cases, however, the Court, centering its attention upon the elements of a case or controversy, has declined jurisdiction. In Alabama v.

Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States
Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States
Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States
Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States
Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States
Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States Narrowing the Nations Power: The Supreme Court Sides with the States

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