AMERICAN R. CO. V. CASTRO, 204 U. S. 453 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

American R. Co. v. Castro, 204 U.S. 453 (1907)

American Railroad Company of Porto Rico v. Castro

No. 151

Argued January 14, 1907

Decided February 25, 1907

204 U.S. 453


The mere assertion of a federal right and its denial do not justify this Court in assuming jurisdiction where it indubitably appears that the federal right is frivolous and without color of merit, and this rule applies to cases brought to this Court under the Act of April 12, 1900, 31 Stat. 85, from the District Court of the United States for Porto Rico.

Under § 34 of the Act of April 12, 1900, 31 Stat. 85, regular terms of the United States district court are to be held at Ponce and San Juan at the time fixed by the act and the same character of terms at Mayaguez at times specially designated by the court. The terms held at Mayaguez are not special terms at which jury cases cannot be tried, as distinguished from regular terms, and § 670, Rev.Stat., does not apply to such terms of that court.

Julio P. Castro, defendant in error, was plaintiff in the court below, and the plaintiff in error, the American Railroad Company, a New York corporation doing business in Porto Rico, was defendant. The action was commenced by the filing of a complaint in the office of the clerk of the court at Mayaguez, Porto Rico. Damages in the sum of $15,000 were prayed, because of the alleged negligent killing of the daughter of the plaintiff by a train of the company, whilst she, with other persons, was attempting to pass, in a vehicle, over the railroad of the defendant at a point where it intersected a public highway leading from the Town of San German to the Town of Mayaguez.

A demurrer to the complaint was filed, and also the following plea to the jurisdiction of the court

"Defendant in the above-entitled action comes now by its attorney, F. H. Dexter, and objects to the jurisdiction

Page 204 U. S. 454

of this court to try this cause under the terms and provisions of § 670 of the Revised Statutes of the United States for the reason that all terms of this court held in the City of Mayaguez, under and by virtue of the terms and provisions of the Act of April 12, 1900 , creating a civil government in Porto Rico, and particularly the present term at which the above cause is set for trial, is a special term of this Court, and therefore this court is without jurisdiction to try the issues in this cause by a jury."

"Wherefore defendant prays for an order either dismissing this cause or transferring the same for trial at a regular term of this court to be held at either San Juan or Ponce."

After the entry of an order overruling the demurrer and the plea to jurisdiction, an answer was filed and the case was tried by a jury. A verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiff for the sum of $1,600. The objection to jurisdiction was renewed in a motion to arrest the judgment, and, after the overruling thereof, a bill of exceptions was settled by the trial judge containing exceptions taken during the trial to the admission and rejection of evidence and to instructions given and refused. The case was then brought to this Court.

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