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United States Supreme Court

98 U.S. 398

Railroad Company  v.  Grant

MOTION to dismiss a writ of error to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

This is a writ of error sued out by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company, the defendant below, on the 6th of December, 1875, to reverse a judgment rendered against it for $2,250 by the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. At that time sects. 846 and 847 of the Revised Statutes relating to the District of Columbia, defining the jurisdiction of this court in that class of cases, were in force.

They are as follows:--

'SECT. 846. Any final judgment, order, or decree of the Supreme Court of the District may be re-examined and reversed or affirmed in the Supreme Court of the United States, upon writ of error or appeal, in the same cases and in like manner as provided by law in reference to the final judgments, orders, and decrees of the circuit courts of the United States.

'SECT. 847. No cause shall be removed from the Supreme Court of the District to the Supreme Court of the United States, by appeal or writ of error, unless the matter in dispute in such cause shall be of the value of $1,000 or upward, exclusive of costs, except in the cases provided for in the following section.'

On the 25th of February, 1879, Congress passed 'An Act to create an additional associate justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, and for the better administration of justice in said District,' sects. 4 and 5 of which are as follows:--

'SECT. 4. The final judgment or decree of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia in any case where the matter in dispute, exclusive of costs, exceeds the value of $2,500, may be re-examined and reversed or affirmed in the Supreme Court of the United States, upon writ of error or appeal, in the same manner and under the same regulations as are provided in cases of writs of error on judgments or appeals from decrees rendered in a circuit court.

'SECT. 5. All acts or parts of acts inconsistent with the provisions of this act are hereby repealed.'

The defendant in error now moves to dismiss the writ of error, on the ground that the jurisdiction of this court has been taken away.

Mr. Richard T. Merrick and Mr. William F. Mattingly, for the defendant in error, in support of the motion, cited McNulty v. Batty, 10 How. 72; Norris v. Crocker, 13 id. 429; Insurance Company v. Ritchie, 5 Wall. 541; Ex parte McArdle, 7 id. 506; Steward v. Kahn, 11 id. 502.

Mr. Enoch Totten, contra.

Insurance Company v. Ritchie (5 Wall. 541) and Ex parte McArdle (7 id. 506), cited by the defendant in error, are not applicable to this case, because the repealing statute in the former case expressly prohibited and took away the entire appellate jurisdiction, and in the latter case was purely a partisan enactment, providing that this court should not possess or exercise any appellate jurisdiction in cases of the character mentioned, where appeals 'have been or may hereafter be taken.'

Norris v. Crocker (13 How. 429) was an action to recover a severe penalty, imposed by statute for the benefit of the owners of fugitive slaves; and the statute having been repealed, the penalty, of course, fell with it.

The sole question seems to be whether the legislature intended by the act of Feb. 25, 1879, to vacate all appeals and writs of error then pending in causes involving less than the value prescribed, or only to establish a new regulation applicable to future cases. All that were pending at the passage of that act were and are here by virtue of the former one. When the amount involved is $2,500, or upwards, there can be no doubt about the jurisdiction. Does the last act repeal the former absolutely, so as to forbid this court to exercise the jurisdiction which had previously vested? If it does, that result is brought about by implication only. Repeals by implication are not favored, and these two acts not being necessarily inconsistent, one may be applied to pending and the other to future appeals.

One statute is not to be construed as a repeal of another, if it be possible to reconcile them. McCool v. Smith, 1 Black, 459; Harford v. United States, 8 Cranch, 109; Sedgwick, Stat. and Const. Law, 127; Bowen v. Lease, 5 Hill (N. Y.), 221; Wood v. United States, 16 Pet. 342.

The last act is silent as to pending causes. It seems fair to conclude that if Congress had intended to interfere with them, the intention would have been declared in apt and unmistakable terms.

All statutes are to be construed as operating prospectively, unless the language is express to the contrary, or there is a necessary implication to that effect. United States v. Heth, 3 Cranch, 399; Harvey v. Tyler, 2 Wall. 347; Prince v. United States, 2 Gall. 204.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WAITE delivered the opinion of the court.


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).