RAILWAY COMPANY V. RAMSEY, 89 U. S. 322 (1874)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Railway Company v. Ramsey, 89 U.S. 22 Wall. 322 322 (1874)

Railway Company v. Ramsey

89 U.S. (22 Wall.) 322




Although consent of the parties to a suit cannot give jurisdiction to the courts of the United States, the parties may admit the existence of facts which show jurisdiction, U.S. and the courts may act judicially upon such an admission.

Where the statutes of the United States authorizing a removal into the circuit court of the United States of a cause brought originally in the courts of a state require that the parties to the suit shall be citizens of different states, and where a cause has been removed from a state court to a circuit court, and all the papers in it have been afterwards destroyed by fire, and the parties then, by writing filed in the circuit court, admit that the cause was brought to the circuit court by transfer from the state court, in accordance with the statutes in such case provided, and, being now anxious apparently only to get to trial, simply ask and get leave to file a declaration and plea as substitutes for the ones originally filed and now destroyed, in such case this Court will, in the absence of all proof to the contrary, presume that the citizenship requisite to give the circuit court jurisdiction was shown in some proper manner, though it be not apparent on the mere pleadings.

Several statutes authorize, as is known, the transfer or removal of causes commenced in the state courts to those of the United States.

First. Where the amount in dispute, exclusive of costs, exceeds $500, and when the suit is against an alien, or is by a citizen of the state where it is brought and against a citizen of

Page 89 U. S. 323

another state, it may be removed on the petition of the defendant filed in the case, in the state court, at the time of entering his appearance in said court. *

Second. When the suit is against an alien, and a citizen of the state wherein it is brought, or is by a citizen of such state against a citizen of the same, and a citizen of another state, upon petition of the defendant, filed at any time before trial or final hearing, if (so far as relates to him) it is brought for the purpose of restraining or enjoining him, or is a suit in which there can be a final termination of the controversy, so far as concerns him, without the presence of the other defendants, as parties in said cause.

Third. When a suit is between a citizen of the state in which it is brought and a citizen of another state, it may be so removed on the petition of the latter, whether he be plaintiff or defendant, filed at any time before the trial or final hearing of the suit, if before or at the time of filing said petition he makes and files in said state court an affidavit, stating that he has reason to and does believe that, from prejudice or local influence, he will not be able to obtain justice in such state court.

To effect a removal in any of the cases, the petitioner must, at the time of filing his petition in the state court, offer to the state court

"good and sufficient security for his entering in said circuit court on the first day of its session copies of said process against him, and of all pleadings, depositions, and testimony, and other proceedings in the case, or in said cases, where a citizen of the state where the suit is brought is a defendant, copies of all process, pleadings, depositions, testimony, and other proceedings in the cause concerning or affecting the petitioner"


These different statutes being in force, and the only ones on the subject, the record in the present case came here.

It showed that Ramsey originally commenced an action against the Pittsburg, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railway

Page 89 U. S. 324

Company in the Superior Court of the City of Chicago; that the suit was afterwards transferred, according to the statutes in such case provided, to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois; that while it was pending in that court undetermined, the files and pleadings were all destroyed by fire; that after the fire, the plaintiff asked leave to file a declaration as a substitute for the one destroyed; that the defendant assented to this request, and on the same day the court made an order, as follows:

"By agreement of the parties, by their attorneys, as per stipulation filed, leave is given them to file a copy of the declaration and plea heretofore filed herein and destroyed by fire on the 9th of October last, and it is ordered that they be substituted for and stand in the place of the original declaration and plea so destroyed."

That thereupon copies of such pleadings were filed, but that there was nothing in the declaration or plea to show the jurisdiction of the circuit court; that on the 11th June, 1872, the parties went to trial upon the issues joined, and that a verdict was rendered for the plaintiff on the 14th of the same month; that on the same day the defendant filed a motion for a new trial, and on the 29th a further motion in arrest of judgment, for the reason that there was nothing upon the record to show that the court had jurisdiction, and that on the 29th of December following, the court overruled both motions and gave judgment upon the verdict.

It nowhere appeared that either of the parties attempted to supply any of the lost files except the pleadings, or that any objection was made to the jurisdiction until after the trial was had and a verdict rendered.

The action of the court in overruling the motion in arrest of judgment was the only matter now assigned for error.

Page 89 U. S. 326

THE CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the Court.

In cases where the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States depends upon the character of the parties, as it no doubt does in this, the facts upon which it rests must, of course, somewhere appear in the record. They need not necessarily, however, be averred in the pleadings. It is sufficient if they are in some form affirmatively shown by the record.

Here, the parties have, by stipulation and agreement placed on file and made part of the record, admitted that the cause was brought to the circuit court by transfer from a state court in accordance with the statutes in such case provided. By the same stipulation it is made to appear that all the original files in the cause had been destroyed by fire. True, the stipulation refers specially to pleadings alone, but in this Court, after what has occurred below, it may with great propriety be assumed that it was intended to include all papers and entries in the cause.

Page 89 U. S. 327

The parties, after this destruction, asked to supply the pleadings. Neither party seems to have considered that anything else was necessary. Each, apparently admitting jurisdiction, seemed anxious to get ready for trial. They were permitted to file copies of the lost declaration and plea and thus make up their issues. The record now before us contains none of the lost files, but is made up of the stipulation above stated, the substituted pleadings, and the proceedings thereafter.

We have, then, a case before us upon error in which the record presented shows upon its face that part of the files in the cause were destroyed before the record was made, and that neither one of the parties has considered it necessary to have them supplied. The question arises, therefore, whether under such circumstances we are confined to what is in terms expressed upon the record sent to us, or whether we may resort to presumptions to give effect to what is expressed.

We are reviewing the action of another court, and are to determine whether or not there is error in what it has done. The restoration of the lost files was not absolutely necessary to support the jurisdiction of that court. Having been once there, the court is presumed to know their contents and is permitted to act upon that knowledge. Parol proof, too, is admissible to aid the memory of the court.

Consent of parties cannot give the courts of the United States jurisdiction, but the parties may admit the existence of facts which show jurisdiction, and the courts may act judicially upon such an admission.

Here, the parties have put into the record their joint admission that the cause was transferred to the circuit court from a state court, and that the evidence of the transfer which was once among the files has been destroyed. They have asked the court to act upon this admission and proceed with the cause. The court did proceed. The fair presumption from all this is that it was then within the knowledge of the parties and the court that there had been on the files in the cause everything which the statute required to be

Page 89 U. S. 328

there to complete the transfer, and that the appearance and admission of the parties was expected and intended to have all the force and effect which a restoration of the papers could have. If, therefore, with these papers in the record, the jurisdiction would appear, the judgment ought not to have been arrested, and there is consequently no error.

We are then permitted to inquire what the lost papers would have shown if they had been incorporated into the record, and for that purpose may presume they contained all that the law required they should.

To obtain the transfer of a suit, the party desiring it must file in the state court a petition therefor and tender the required security. Such a petition must state facts sufficient to entitle him to have the transfer made. This cannot be done without showing that the circuit court would have jurisdiction of the suit when transferred. The one necessarily includes the other. If upon the hearing of the petition it is sustained by the proof, the state court can proceed no further. It has no discretion and is compelled to permit the transfer to be made. The petitioning party is then required to file in the circuit court copies of the process and of all pleadings, depositions, testimony, and other proceedings in the state court. This includes the proceedings by which the transfer was effected, and these, as has been seen, must show the facts necessary to give the circuit court jurisdiction.

Such are the papers which we are to presume were filed in this cause, and from what has occurred, the conclusion is irresistible that they must have contained all that was necessary to justify the court in accepting the transfer. This it need not have done unless the jurisdiction was apparent. Either party, upon the filing of the papers, could have moved to remand, or the court itself, without a motion, could have sent the case back if the jurisdiction did not appear. As both the court and the parties accepted the transfer, it cannot for a moment be doubted that the files did then contain conclusive evidence of the existence of the jurisdictional facts.

Page 89 U. S. 329

This ends the case. With the lost files in the record, we should see that the court had the right to permit the parties to litigate before it as they did.

There is here no question of a restoration of lost records. This record has never been lost. It was not made until after the fire. The litigation was pending when that calamity occurred. What has been lost is part of the files which, when the time arrived to make up a record, would have been incorporated into it. What we have to consider is whether in the record as made their loss has been supplied. We think it has by the recorded acts of the parties and their stipulation.

Judgment affirmed.

* See the statutes embodied in section 630 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, 873, 874, title 13, chapter 7.

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