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U.S. Supreme Court

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Ry. Co. v. Willard, 220 U.S. 413 (1911)

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railway Company v. Willard

No. 105

Submitted March 17, 1911

Decided April 10, 1911

220 U.S. 413


On every writ of error or appeal, the first and fundamental question is that of jurisdiction -- first of this Court and then of the court below. This question must be asked and answered by the Court itself, even when not otherwise suggested and without respect to the relation of the parties to it. M. C. & L. M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U. S. 379.

Consent of parties can never confer jurisdiction upon a federal court,

Page 220 U. S. 414

and this Court can of its own motion prevent the Circuit Court from exercising jurisdiction not conferred upon it by statute. Minnesota v. Northern Securities Co., 194 U. S. 48.

In the absence of express exemptions in the statute, a statutory permission to a railroad to lease its road does not relieve the lessor from its charter obligations.

Where, as in Illinois, the lessor railroad company remains liable with the lessee company for torts arising from operation, a plaintiff sustaining injuries may bring an action either separately or against both jointly, and in the latter case, neither defendant can remove on the ground of diverse citizenship if either is a resident of the plaintiff's state.

A defendant cannot say that an action shall be several if the plaintiff has a right, and so declares, to make it joint, and to make it joint is not fraudulent if the right to do so exists, even if plaintiff does so to prevent removal.

Removability of an action depends upon the state of the pleadings and the record at the time of the application.

The facts, which involve the jurisdiction of the circuit court and the right of a defendant to remove a case thereto from the state court on the ground of separable controversy, are stated in the opinion.

Page 220 U. S. 416

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