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U.S. Supreme Court

Minnesota v. Northern Securities Co., 194 U.S. 48 (1904)

Minnesota v. Northern Securities Company

No. 433

Argued January 7-8, 1904

Decided April 11, 1904

194 U.S. 48


Consent of parties can never confer jurisdiction upon a federal court. If the record does not affirmatively show jurisdiction in the circuit court, this Court must, upon its own motion, so declare, and make such order as will prevent the circuit court from exercising an authority not conferred upon it by statute.

A state is not a citizen within the meaning of the provisions of the Constitution or acts of Congress regulating the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

Under existing statutes regulating the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, a case cannot be removed from a state court as one arising under the Constitution or laws of the United States unless the plaintiff's complaint, bill, or declaration shows it to be a case of that character.

While an allegation in a complaint filed in a circuit court of the United States may confer jurisdiction to determine whether the case is of the class of which the court may properly take cognizance for purposes of a final decree on the merits, if, notwithstanding such allegation, the court finds at any time that the case does not really and substantially involve a dispute or controversy within its jurisdiction, then, by the express command of the act of 1875, its duty is to proceed no further. And if the suit, as disclosed by the complaint, could not have been brought by plaintiff originally in the circuit court, then, under the act of 1887-1888 it should not have been removed from the state court, and should be remanded.

The intention of the Anti-Trust Act of July 2, 1890, 26 Stat. 209, was to limit direct proceedings in equity to prevent and restrain such violations of the Anti-Trust Act as cause injury to the general public, or to all alike, merely from the suppression of competition in trade and commerce among the several states and with foreign nations, to those instituted in the name of the United States, under § 4 of the act, by district attorneys of the United States, acting under the direction of the Attorney General, thus securing the enforcement of the act, so far as such direct proceedings in equity are concerned, according to some uniform plan operative throughout the entire country.

A state cannot maintain an action in equity to restrain a corporation from violating the provisions of the Act of July 2, 1890, on the ground that such violations, by decreasing competition, would depreciate the value of its public lands and enhance the cost of maintaining its public institutions, the damages resulting from such violations being remote and indirect, and not such direct actual injury as is provided for in § 7 of the act.

Page 194 U. S. 49

Article IV of the Constitution of the United States only prescribes a rule by which courts, federal and state, are to be guided when a question arises in the progress of a pending suit as to the faith and credit to be given by the court to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of a state other than that in which the court is sitting. It has nothing to do with the conduct of individuals or corporations.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

Page 194 U. S. 56

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