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Dissenting Opinions

United States Supreme Court

58 U.S. 478

Florida  v.  State of Georgia

Mr. Justice CAMPBELL dissenting.

I dissent from the opinion of the court. The attorney-general suggests to the court that the State of Florida has filed here an original bill against the State of Georgia, for a settlement of the boundary between the States. He represents that the line claimed by Florida is that which the United States have recognized in the surveys, sales, and other operations of the landoffice, and that the line of Georgia diminishes the domain of the United States in Florida twelve hundred thousand acres. 'Whereupon, and in consideration of the interest and concern of the United States,' he moves for leave 'to appear in said cause, and be heard in behalf of the United States, in such time and form as the court will order.' The condition of the cause, in relation to which the motion is made, is, that a bill and answer have been filed, but no issue exists, and none of the ulterior stages in the course of the cause attained; nor has there been any motion to the court requiring an examination of the record; and so the motion, as understood from its terms, is certainly premature. But the words, 'to appear in said cause and be heard in behalf of the United States,' very indifferently explain the significance of the motion. The application is, that the attorney-general may 'intervene,' 'not as a technical party; not as joining with the one or other party; not in subordination to the mode of conducting the complaint or defence adopted by the one State or the other, nor subject to the consequences of their acts, or of any possible mispleading, insufficient pleading, omission to plead, or admission or omission of fact, by either party, or both; but to co operate with or to oppose both or either, and to bring forth all the points of the case, according to his own judgment, whether as to the law or fact.'

Though the pleadings show that the interests of the State of Florida and of the United States unite to maintain the same line, the attorney-general declines to adopt her suit, lest the condition of the United States might become 'precarious,' 'depending on the discretion of Florida.' Nor will the attorney-general file a bill for the United States, nor agree that Florida may make them defendants to hers, for, 'that the court is not empowered by the constitution to entertain an original suit' of the kind.

Nor is the motive for this intervention merely that the United States have a fiscal interest, for the attorney-general suggests that the constitution may be violated by agreements and compacts of States, 'entered of record,' thereby altering the limits of the States and the structure of the Union, 'to the direct prejudice of the rights, interests, and laws of the United States.' These suggestions of possible injustice arising from collusive compacts 'entered of record,' may be used in any judicial controversy between States, and in this case no evidence of such appears of record; and if such suggestions are heeded, the attorney-general must be constantly an applicant for leave to appear, 'not as a technical party,' but to employ some oversight, superintendence, or censorship, in suits between States of the Union in this court; and surely, such a claim requires new modes of proceeding, and that now proposed is as peculiar as the claim. The United States appear, with the assertion of their exemption from suit in this court-that the original jurisdiction of the court does not embrace them as a party. Thus declaring independence of process, pleading, and decree, in an original suit in the court, they ask to assist or to assail, at their pleasure, suitors legally before it, and to mould the decree in their case by allegations, evidence, and arguments, introduced without, and perhaps against, their will.

The principle of common law and chancery procedure is, that suits are commenced, prosecuted, and defended by parties to the record in their own names and the intervention of third persons, not parties, is unknown to the system; and we may affirm confidently, in a case like this, where the party is above and beyond the jurisdiction of the court, such a case is without a precedent. 2 Chitty's Pr. 343. The case of Pentland v. Quorrington, 3 My. and C. 249, was that of a trustee, with a full assignment, suing in the name of the assignor, under his power of attorney, and obtaining a decree with notice to the defendant. The nominal plaintiff agreed to an order for delay, and the trustee petitioned for a discharge of the order, and that he might conduct the suit. Lord Cottenham said: 'It is a perfectly new equity. The only suit in court is a suit between the defendant and the party (assignor) with whom the contract was made. The plaintiff (assignor) is a party to the arrangement, for effectuating which the present order has been made. Your case is against him, that whereas he has authorized you to carry on this suit in his name, he has entered into the arrangement in question without your concurrence. If I were to make such an order, I should be giving you the right of carrying on this suit against the defendant; I should be displacing the plaintiff on the record.' He asked: 'Is there any instance of such an interference on the part of the court as you now ask?' The eminent solicitor answered: 'I admit that I have never seen a case like the present.' So in Drever v. Manderley, 4 M. and C. 94, an order allowing a third person to control a suit where the subject belonged to him by assignment, but to which he was not a party by any proceeding, was pronounced by the same chancellor 'perfectly irregular.' The court did not object to the right to the subject of the suit, but to the mode of enforcing the right, by the attempt to control the suit. It required the assignee to exhibit his right by bill, according to the practice of the court, in his own name.

Chief Justice Marshall, in describing the controversies to which the judicial power of the United States extends, says:--

'The words are of well understood and limited signification. It is a controversy between parties which had taken a shape for judicial decision.' 'To come within the description of a case in law and equity, a question must assume a legal form for forensic litigation and judicial decision. There must be parties come into court who can be reached by its process and bound by its power, whose rights admit of ultimate decision by a tribunal to which they are bound to submit.' 5 Wheat. Ap. 16, 17. The supposed cases of exception cited by the attorney-general only display the pervading extent of this principle. The instances quoted are rules under the interpleading act of Wm. IV.; landlords defending for tenants in ejectment, vouchees in warranty in real actions, bills of interpleader, and suits by representative parties, for or against themselves and others. The cases referred to in courts of common law arise, where a person having the primary right or obligation, is called as a party to the suit to defend that right or to fulfil the obligation; and Lord Coke speaks of the common law instance of a vouchee as 'seeming strange' and depending upon 'ancient, continual, and constant allowance,' (2 Ins. 241;) and so, in interpleading suits, parties having an adverse interest are called in by process, as parties, to disengage a neutral who may have the subject of controversy and desires to relinquish it to the owner, when he shall be ascertained, and in representative cases the court acts upon the parties to the record, and determines the case made by them. In this case, the United States admit no representation on their behalf; nor will they undertake the suit of either, nor admit the jurisdiction of the court to treat them as a suitor or party; but contest the authority of the court, are ready to contest or strengthen the positions of either party, and thus they seek, by an anomalous Austrian intervention, to overlook and control the proceedings of the litigants to their own aggrandizement. I find no precedent in the direct and straightforward course of the common law, nor in the statutes altering it, for such a conduct. I will briefly examine the precedents to which we have been cited, in the codes of procedure of those tribunals which apply the jurisprudence of imperial or papal Rome. The French code permits the interposition of third persons in existing suits. An intervenor may guard a present or future interest, or one certain, contingent, conditional, or collateral, whether pecuniary or personal or held as a representative. But the inquiry is, how and under what circumstances? And the answer is by propounding his pretensions to the court as a suitor, inviting contest, alleging proofs, recognizing the jurisdiction of the court, and submitting to its decree. 4 Bioche Dic. de Pro. 590; Louisa. Code, Prac. § 324.

La Ca nada, describing the Spanish system, says, there are necessarily two parties to every suit (actor and reo); and when a third litigant comes, he is called by that number (tercero); and because he can oppose either of the parties, or both, the word opposer is added (tercero opositor), and his act is called third opposition. If he comes to aid another party in the same right, he accepts the suit as he finds it, and acts conjointly; if his rights are independent, adverse, or paramount, his suit is treated as an original suit, and is conducted as ordinary suits.

The third opposer is technically a party to the cause, and really subject to the decree. La Ca nada, Juicos Civiles, 393.

Nor do the admiralty or eccleslastical codes afford any sanction to the motion. Their jurisdiction being largely in rem, they allow persons who have a present and certain claim to the res, to propound their interest, if the court has jurisdiction; and by the act the persons become parties to the suit, liable for costs and entitled to appeal. The various codes, then, differ in the time and manner of calling parties before the court. The conditions of a suit at the common law, in general, are settled at its institution, and new and independent parties are not introduced in the subsequent stages. The courts of chancery are more liberal in reference to the time of making parties and in the extent of their amendments. But in both courts the plaintiff is the dominus litis, and third persons may not come in unless he amends the proceedings, or his bill is fitted for it, as being a representative bill. But in the civil, admiralty, and ecclesiastical courts, the power of third persons to propound their rights in the subject of dispute is not so dependent upon the will of the prior parties. But all the codes of procedure unite in this, that persons must come in according to a regular course of procedure, accepting the authority of the court, citing adverse parties to defend, and yielding to whatever decree it may pronounce. The more than imperial claim, in this instance, is for all the faculties of a suitor, without a submission to the obligations and restrictions of one. But it is supposed that precedents in the English chancery support a pretension of the attorney-general to intervene according to his motion. An important class of the rights of the crown are represented there by the queen's attorney-general; but how? He is introduced upon the record as a 'technical' party to the suit, and the crown is bound by the decree. When the right is adverse to the plaintiff, the attorney-general is made a party by prayer in the bill and the service of a copy. If he fails to appear, it is a nil dicit; and if he appears and will not answer, a decree pro confesso is taken. Danl. Ch. Pr. 175, 501, 548; Dick. 729; 1 Y. and J. 509.

And courts there exercise over the attorney-general the same authority which they exercise over every other suitor, and he would not be permitted more than any other suitor to prosecute any proceeding merely vexatious, or which had no legal object. The Queen v. Prosser, 11 Beav. 306.

The cases cited, of Penn v. Lord Baltimore, Hovenden v. Annesly, Attorney-General v. Galway, and the analogous cases of Dolder v. Bank of England, and Burgess v. Wheat, (Cas. temp. Hard. 332; 2 Sch. and Lef. 617; 1 Moll. 95; 10 Ves. 352; 1 Eden. Ch. 177,) are instances of the application of the rule that the court will require the crown to be made a party to the record, under the name of the attorney-general, and that he comes as an actual and obedient party, and not in any illusory and indeterminate form; so that, if the claim of the attorney-general to represent the United States in courts, to the extent claimed, is tenable, the manner of the intervention here is inadmissible.

But I do not admit that the attorney-general has any corporate or juridical character, or that he can be introduced upon the record, in his official name, as an actor or respondent in a suit. His duties are strictly professional duties, and his powers those of an attorney at law. Whatever he may do for the United States, a special attorney might be retained to do; nor can the United States appear in his name, nor by his agency, in cases where they may not be a party.

I have considered this motion upon the concessions of the argument, but the principle lying at the foundation of the case should not form the basis of a judgment merely on the strength of such concessions; and hence I proceed to its examination.

The judicial power of the United States extends to all cases in law and equity arising under the constitution and laws of the United States, and treaties made under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States; and between a State or the citizens thereof and foreign states, citizens, and subjects.

'In all cases affecting ambassadors, &c., and those in which a State shall be a party, the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction. In all other cases before mentioned the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction only.' It was not in the design of the constitution to alter or even to modify the existing relations of any of the sovereign parties named in this article, to legal jurisdictions, by enlarging their liableness to suit; but its purpose was to erect tribunals to which they might resort for the determination of the suits which they might legally commence, or might voluntarily submit or were subject to, according to their pre existing conditions. Thus, no suit can be commenced against the United States, foreign states or ambassadors, and public ministers; nor are they brought within the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States to any degree beyond that to which they were liable, without this constitutional clause. The construction which allows the exemption of these parties as sovereigns, or their representatives, to operate, sanctions, also, the title of the States to the same right, for they are mentioned in the same clause; and the jurisdiction conceded to this court, in reference to them, is expressed in similar or identical language.

I am aware, that at an early day in the existence of this court, a contrary opinion was expressed by a majority, upon a motion for an interlocutory order in a suit against a State, and I propose to examine the principle established in the controversy, of which that opinion is a part.

While the constitution was under discussion, General Hamilton (Federalist, 81) said, 'that it is in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of an individual without its consent,' and contended, 'that to ascribe to the federal courts, by mere implication, and in destruction of a pre existing right of the state governments, a power which would involve such consequences, would be altogether forced and unwarrantable.' So, Mr. Madison, replying to the vehement and prophetic denunciations of Patrick Henry, in a careful exposition of the judiciary clause, calmed the Virginia convention by assuring it that 'it is not in the power of individuals to call any State into court. The only operation the clause can have is, that if a State should wish to bring a suit against a citizen, it must be brought in the federal court.' And the late Chief Justice Marshall supported him, saying: 'With respect to disputes between a State and citizens of another State, its jurisdiction has been decried with unusual vehemence. I hope no gentleman will think a State will be called at the bar of a federal court. It is not rational to suppose that the sovereign power shall be dragged before a court. The intent is to enable States to recover claims of individuals residing in other States. I contend this construction is warranted by the words.' Virginia Deb. 387, 405, 406.

When these assurances from the most accredited friends of the new government were disappointed, by the institution of suits in this court against several of the States, by individual plaintiffs, shortly after the adoption of the constitution, a strong sentiment of wrong was felt, and corresponding indignation expressed. This indignation was not occasioned by any apprehension of consequences to the States as debtors, but by the fact that they supposed their rights to be violated. The history will bear no other interpretation. In Chisolm v. Georgia, that State instructed counsel to present to the court a written remonstrance and protestation against the exercise of jurisdiction, but not to argue the cause. The attorney-general opened the case of the plaintiff by saying: 'He did not want the remonstrance of Georgia, to satisfy him that the motion for judgment was unpopular. Before that remonstrance was read, he had learned from the acts of another State that she too condemned it.' The court awarded a writ of inquiry upon the default of the State, sustaining the jurisdiction upon arguments of the utility, justice, and safety of the delegation of the power, and of the diminution and abasement wrought upon the States by the constitution. Mr. Justice Wilson states the case 'as one of uncommon magnitude.' He says: 'One of the parties is a State, certainly respectable, claiming to be sovereign. The question to be determined is, whether this State, so respectable, and whose claim soars so high, is amenable to the jurisdiction of the supreme court of the United States? This question, important in itself, will depend on others more important still; and may perhaps be ultimately resolved into one no less radical than this: Do the people of the United States form a nation?' It is not difficult to perceive the profound misconception of the relations of the States to the Union which dictated his judgment. The following year the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia adopted a resolution which contains a reply to the question: 'Resolved unanimously, that a State cannot, under the constitution of the United States, be made a defendant at the suit of any individual or individuals; and that the decision of the supreme federal court, that a State may be placed in that situation, is incompatible with and dangerous to the sovereignty and independence of the individual States, as the same tends to a general consolidation of these confederated republics;' and instructed their senators and representatives 'to unite their utmost and earliest exertions to obtain such amendments as will remove or explain any clause which can be construed to imply or justify a decision that a State is compellable to answer in any suit by any individual or individuals in any court of the United States.'

One month after, January, 1794, the senate was moved by Mr. Strong, of Massachusetts, to adopt the eleventh amendment to the constitution, declaring that the constitution should not be construed to authorize such suits. Various attempts were made in both branches of congress to limit the operation of the amendment, but without effect. It was accepted without the alteration of a letter, by a vote of 23 to 2 in the senate, and 81 to 9 in the house of representatives, and received the assent of the state legislatures. Georgia ratified the amendment as 'an explanatory article,' her legislature 'concurring therewith, deeming the same to be the only just and true construction of the judicial power by which the rights and dignity of the several States can be effectively secured.' Thus the supreme constitutional jurisdiction of the United States, the concurrent action of congress, and the state legislatures, expressing a consent nearly unanimous, corrected the opinion of the supreme court, and intercepted its final judgments in these cases, by declaring that the constitution should not be so construed as to allow them.

The reporter of the court closes the volume which contains the case of Chisolm, by saying 'the writ of inquiry was not sued out and executed; so that this cause and all other suits against States were swept at once from the records of the court by the amendment of the constitution.' The course of argument which excluded the jurisdiction of such cases, applies with equal force to suits by foreign states against the States of the Union. And the considerations which forbid suits against the States by individuals, indicated with such clearness in the Federalist, form the basis of the luminous and masterly judgments in the English chancery, in the case of the Duke of Brunswick v. King of Hanover, 6 Beav. 1; 2 H. L. Ca. 1, where the delicacy, difficulty, and danger of the jurisdiction, and its want of practical value, are fully set forth, and the conclusion announced 'that it is a general rule, in accordance with the laws of nations, that a sovereign prince resident in the dominions of another is exempt from the jurisdiction of the courts there.' It is clear the constitution did not abrogate any law of nations, and the only question is whether the States consented to suits without any reciprocal right, or whether the existence of such a power in foreign states could possibly assist any objects of the confederacy. On the contrary, would not such a promiscuous grant jeopard its tranquillity and peace? The answer of Mr. Madison to the Virginia convention is positive and direct. 'I do not conceive,' he says, 'that any controversy can ever be decided in these courts, between an American and foreign state, without the consent of parties. If they consent, provision is here made. The disputes ought to be tried by the national tribunal. This is consonant with the law of nations.' Virginia Deb. 391. To this consent, it may be that congress would be a necessary party.

The nature of the jurisdiction in regard to the States having been considered, the inquiry can now be made, can the United States be a party to a suit between two or more States? The constitution does not mention such a case. There were before the federal convention propositions to extend the judicial powers to questions 'which involve the national peace and harmony;' 'to controversies between the United States and an individual State;' and in the modified form, 'to examine into and decide upon the claims of the United States and an individual State to territory.' None were incorporated into the constitution, and the last was peremptorily rejected. The jurisdiction of this court over cases to which the United States and the States are respectively parties, is materially different-the one original, the other appellate only. There was no encouragement, nor serious countenance, to the proposition to vest this court with jurisdiction of such cases. This court is organized and its members appointed by one of the parties. Their influence extends with the jurisdiction of this court, their means of reputation with its powers, their habitual connection with the federal legislation naturally inspires a sentiment in favor of the federal authority. These operative causes of bias were known; and apprehensive as the States were of consolidation and the overbearing influence of the central government, we can well understand why only the modified proposal as to jurisdiction was pressed to a vote. I repeat, that the enumeration of the parties in this article of the constitution did not enlarge the liabilities of the States to suits, but it only provided tribunals where suits might be brought, to which they were already subject, or might desire to commence. Nor does the clause authorizing suits between two or more States afford any contradiction to this conclusion.

The articles of confederation, by which they were then combined, allowed congress, as the occasion might arise, to appoint special tribunals 'to which all disputes and differences now subsisting, or that might hereafter arise, between two or more States, concerning boundary, jurisdiction, or any other cause whatever,' should be submitted.

Similar provisions for special and occasional tribunals, in matters of jurisdiction and boundary, formed a part of the plan of the constitution till near the close of the convention when they were stricken out, and the general jurisdiction over those as well as other controversies delegated to this court. My conclusion, after an examination of the clause, is, that it is only in controversies between the States that one of their number can be impleaded in this court without its explicit consent; and that this jurisdiction is special, as to the controversy and the parties, embracing none except those between the States of the Union; that the court has no original jurisdiction of the United States, and none of a controversy between them and an individual State; and consequently, that they have no title to appear as a party to the record, nor in any undefined and uncertain relation to it.

And now the question arises, whether the United States can or ought to be concluded as to their property, without a privilege to appear and be heard, by a judgment of the court, upon a question of boundary submitted by two or more of the States, for its adjudication?

Without assigning any effect to the judgment that may be rendered, or anticipating whether the rights of the United States may be reserved, I will assume that the United States will be estopped by the judgment, and that no reservation of their proprietary rights can be made; and consider whether, under such circumstances, there is injustice. The government of Florida involve in this suit her highest claims-those of sovereignty and jurisdiction-and fulfil their chief political obligations in its prosecution. If individual claims are affected by the decree in such a suit, it is because they are so incorporated in the rights of their sovereign as to have no separate or independent existence. She is the representative of all the proprietary rights and interests of her people in their contest with another sovereign. The United States, in resigning their sovereignty over the territory of Florida to the people, and by recognizing their government, relinquished their authority over this controversy, and consented that their proprietary claims to the waste and unappropriated lands should abide the issue to which the State, in her wisdom and fidelity, should attain. This sovereign control of Florida was modified upon her accession to the Union. After this, if the controversy was settled by negotiation and compact, the consent of congress was necessary to its binding operation, as in other cases of compact. If it was settled contradictorily, then this tribunal was appointed to make the determination.

Nor do I perceive that the executive department has any title to disturb the parties or the court, with the expression of anxieties or apprehensions that this court will be lured to perform what congress alone may do, or that these constitutional conditions will not be honorably fulfilled. The existence of this federal government, in its whole extent, is a testimonial to the magnanimous and disinterested polity of the States of the Union; nor is the concession, which submits to a tribunal of justice the peaceful and rational adjustment of the controversies between sovereign States, the least weighty of the proofs of those dispositions. It seems to me, that it is the duty of this court to come to the exercise of the jurisdiction the States have conferred, in the same spirit; to exercise it according to the letter of their submission; to exclude from it suspicion, jealousies, interventions from any authority, but to meet the parties to the controversy with confidence.

Dissenting from every part of the order, I have filed the reasons for the dissent.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).