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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Civil Procedure: Federal Question Jurisdiction

Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co. v. Mottley:
Supreme Court of the United States
211 U.S. 149 (1908)
Issue: Was there federal jurisdiction
Rule: Federal Question Jurisdiction
Application: Two questions posed by the demurrer of the bill
-Neither of these questions need consideration, because the court below was without jurisdiction
-It is the duty of this court to see to it that the jurisdiction of the circuit court, which is defined and limited by statute, is not exceeded.
-There was no diversity of citizenship, and it is not and cannot be suggested that there was any ground of jurisdiction, except that the case was a "suit… arising under the constitution or laws of the United States."
-A suit arises under the constitution and laws of the united states only when the plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon those laws or that constitution
-It is not enough that the plaintiff alleges some anticipated defense to his cause of action, and asserts that the defense is invalidated by some provision of the constitution of the united states
Conclusion: No
-Both plaintiff and defendant are residents of Kentucky
-Plaintiffs (Husband and wife) brought suit to seek enforcement of their free lifetime passes for the railroad after being in a train wreck, due to the railroads negligence.
-1871-1907: Plaintiffs received their free passes.
-January 1, 1907: Railroad revoked passes, due to act of congress passed June 29, 1906, forbidding the giving of free passes or free transportation.
-The bill alleges
  1. The act of congress does not prohibit the giving of passes under the circumstances of this case
  2. If the law is to be construed as prohibiting such passes, it is in conflict with the 5th amendment of the constitution, because it deprives the plaintiffs of their property without due process of law.

-Railroads have a more sympathetic ear? Get precedent to use?


  1. I remember learning all about the big railroad companies back in US History II. Interesting case to hear though. Thanks for the post!

  2. Good stuff. Nice to hear that the interstate commerce clause isn't completely abused.