OpenJurist

135 US 315 Northern Pac Co v. Austin

135 U.S. 315

10 S.Ct. 758

34 L.Ed. 218

NORTHERN PAC. R. CO.
v.
AUSTIN.

May 5, 1890.

James McNaught, W. P. Clough, A. H. Garland, and H. J. May, for plaintiff in error.

M. D. Grover, for defendant in error.

Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court.

1

The contention of plaintiff i error seems to be that the right to remove the suit into the circuit court of the United States for the district of Minnesota, under the act of March 3, 1875, was specially set up or claimed by it; that the decision was against the right so set up or claimed; and that, therefore, this court has jurisdiction. But the difficulty with that view is that when the amendment was permitted to be made, after the evidence had satisfied the trial, court that its allowance was proper, the defendant filed no petition and made no application to remove the cause. It is true that, when the plaintiff first applied to amend, the defendant objected, upon the ground that it would be an abuse of discretion, because the defendant would be obliged to submit to a trial when the amount actually involved would have entitled it to a removal, if that fact had appeared when the suit was commenced, or if the amendment had been made at an earlier stage of the case. This was by way of argument, and upon the theory that the plaintiff had purposely laid his damages in the first instance at a sum which did not permit a removal, and then sought to increase the ad damnum after the trial commenced, and when it was assumed to be too late to remove.

2

The supreme court of Minnesota, in passing upon the action of the district court, (Austin v. Railroad Co., 34 Minn. 473, 26 N. W. Rep. 607,) held that, 'in respect to the propriety of allowing amendments, the court can make no distinction between cases exclusively triable in the state court, and those claimed to be removable to the United States courts. If the case is one in which an amendment might properly be made in the former class of cases, then it may be made in the latter, because the action of the court is authorized by law, and, while a case remains in the state court and under its jurisdiction, no party can legally complain of proceedings which are in conformity with the laws of the state. There being no complaint that the case was not in itself a proper one for the exercise of the discretion of the court in the allowance of the amendment, under the practice in this state, we think the objection was properly overruled. * * * But there is nothing upon the record in this case to show the plaintiff's course was a device to prevent a removal. According to the practice as understood and actually prevailing in the United States courts of this circuit when this action was tried, the defendant would not have been entitled to a removal if the complaint had been amended before the case came to trial. Myers v. Railway Co., 16 Fed. Rep. 292. But the supreme court of the United States subsequently held, by a divided court, that corporations like the defendant, created and organized under the laws of the United States, were entitled to remove suits against them to the United States courts. Pacific Railroad Removal Cases, 115 U. S. 1, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1113. Under the circumstances, therefore, we are not warranted in concluding that the allowance of the amendment was an abuse of discretion. If the facts were such as to warrant the inference that the plaintiff purposely brought the action for a smaller amount in order to prevent a removal, and afterwards secured the amendment, a different question would be presented.' Nothing is better settled than that, to enable us to take jurisdiction on the ground of the denial by a state court of a right claimed under a statute of the United States, the record must show that the right was specially set up or claimed at the proper time and in the proper way, and that the decision was against the right so set up or claimed. Spies v. Illinois, 123 U. S. 131, 8 Sup. Ct. Rep. 22; Chappell v. Bradshaw, 128 U. S. 132, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 40. As the defendant did not apply for the removal of the cause, the right now claimed under the statute was not denied by the district court, nor by the supreme court in affirming the judgment. If the application had been made, the question would then have arisen whether it came too late, under the circm stances. The defendant was not entitled to remove the suit as originally brought 'before or at the term at which such cause could be first tried, and before the trial thereof.' But the objection to removal, depending upon the absence of the jurisdictional amount, was obviated by the amendment. As the time within which a removal must be applied for is not jurisdictional, but modal and formal, (Ayers v. Watson, 113 U. S. 594, 598, 5 Sup. Ct. Rep. 641,) it may, though obligatory to a certain extent, be waived; and as, where a removal is effected, the party who obtains it is estopped upon the question of the time, so if the conduct of the plaintiff in a given case were merely a device to prevent a removal, it might be that the objection as to the time could not be raised by him. If, on the other hand, the motives of the plaintiff could not be inquired into, or, if admitted, would not affect the result, as in most cases of remittitur, (Thompson v. Butler, 95 U. S. 694; Cable Co. v. O'Connor, 128 U. S. 394, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 112,) the defendant would simply suffer for want of comprehensiveness in the statute. The amendment here was held to have been properly allowed, and we have no power or disposition to interfere with the action of the court in regard to it. The only importance it has is in its bearing upon the charge of bad faith in respect to the right of removal, and that question cannot properly arise in the absence of an application to remove. The writ of error must be dismissed; and it is so ordered.