UNITED STATES V. SHERWOOD, 312 U. S. 584 (1941)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584 (1941)

United States v. Sherwood

No. 500

Argued March 6, 7, 1941

Decided March 31, 1941

312 U.S. 584


A New York court, acting under authority of § 795 of the New York Civil Practice Act, made an order authorizing a judgment creditor to sue under the Tucker Act, to recover damages from the United States for breach of its contract with the judgment debtor, the order directing that, out of the recovery, the judgment creditor should be entitled to a sum sufficient to satisfy his judgment with interest, costs, etc. The state law cited makes the judgment debtor a necessary party, and authorizes him, in any suit so brought, to attack the validity of the order and of the judgment on which it is founded.


1. That a suit brought accordingly against the United States and the judgment debtor was not within the jurisdiction of the federal court. P. 588.

2. A court has no jurisdiction of a suit against the United States to which the United States has not consented. P. 312 U. S. 587.

3. Jurisdiction of a federal court to award damages for breach of contract by the United States is defined by the Tucker Act, and is restricted to suits against the Government alone; if adjudication of the plaintiff's right to maintain the suit as against a private party is prerequisite to its prosecution against the United States, the suit must be dismissed. P. 312 U. S. 588.

4. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not authorize any suit against the United States to which it has not otherwise consented. P. 312 U. S. 589.

5. The Act of June 19, 1934, 48 Stat. 1064, 28 U.S.C. 723, authorizing this Court to prescribe rules of procedure in civil actions gave it no authority to modify, abridge or enlarge the substantive

Page 312 U. S. 585

rights of litigants or to enlarge or diminish the jurisdiction of federal courts. P. 312 U. S. 590.

6. The concurrent jurisdiction of the District Court under the Tucker Act does not extend to any suit which could not be litigated in the Court of Claims. P. 312 U. S. 590.

7. Waivers of sovereign immunity from suit are strictly construed. P. 312 U. S. 590.

112 F.2d 587 reversed.

Certiorari, 311 U.S. 640, to review the reversal of a judgment of the District Court dismissing for want of jurisdiction a suit against the United States and a private party.

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