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ILLINOIS CENTRAL R. CO. V. ADAMS, 180 U. S. 28 (1901)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Illinois Central R. Co. v. Adams, 180 U.S. 28 (1901)

Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Adams

Nos. 77-79

Argued October 24, 1900

Decided January 7, 1901

180 U.S. 28


An appeal to this Court from a circuit court will not be dismissed upon the ground that, after an injunction against the collection of certain taxes was refused by the circuit court, and while the suit was still pending in that court, defendant brought suit in the state court and recovered the taxes in question. The defense of res adjudicata cannot be made available upon motion to dismiss an appeal.

Jurisdiction is the right to put the wheels of justice in motion and to proceed to the final determination of the cause upon the pleadings and evidence. It exists in the circuit courts if the plaintiff be a citizen of one state, the defendant a citizen of another, if the amount in controversy exceed $2,000, and if the defendant be properly served with process within the district.

A failure to allege a compliance with the Ninety-fourth Rule in Equity concerning bills brought by stockholders of corporations against the corporation and other parties does not raise a question of jurisdiction, but of the authority of the plaintiff to maintain his bill.

As the bill set up a contract with the state in a railway charter, and also averred that such contract had been impaired by subsequent legislation, it was held that the bill presented a case under the Constitution of the United States and that jurisdiction might be sustained upon that ground alone.

The question whether a suit, nominally against an individual by name, is in reality a suit against the state within the Eleventh Amendment to the chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 180 U. S. 29

Constitution is a defense to the merits, rather than to the jurisdiction of the court.

Such defense should be raised either by demurrer or other appropriate pleadings, and cannot be made available upon motion to dismiss.

Motions are generally appropriate only in the absence of remedies by regular pleadings, and cannot be made available to settle important questions of law or to dispose of the merits of the case.

As the suit was against a revenue agent appointed by the state who represented all the parties interested, to enjoin the collection of a gross sum far exceeding the jurisdictional amount, the fact that such sum, when collected, would ultimately be distributed in small amounts to the various municipalities interested does not defeat the jurisdiction of the court.

No. 77 was a bill in equity filed by the railroad company, an Illinois corporation, against Wirt Adams, revenue agent, a citizen of the State of Mississippi, the railroad commission of that state, and the Canton, Aberdeen, & Nashville Railroad Company, a corporation of the State of Mississippi, to enjoin the railroad commission from approving and certifying an assessment for taxes on the Canton, Aberdeen, and Nashville Railroad for any of the years from 1886 to 1897 inclusive; also to enjoin the revenue agent from beginning any suit or advising any of the counties or towns along the line of such road to bring suit for the recovery of such taxes, and for a decree adjudging such railroad to be exempt from state and county taxation for the years aforesaid.

A temporary injunction, issued upon the filing of the bill, was subsequently discharged, an appeal taken to the court of appeals, which was dismissed for the want of jurisdiction, and a final decree subsequently entered in the circuit court dismissing the bill, with the following certificate upon the questions of jurisdiction:

"1. That the complainant in its original bill showed no jurisdiction on the ground of diversity of citizenship. Defendants claim that its interest was derivative through the Canton, Aberdeen, and Nashville, and that the complainant had no right to raise jurisdiction in the Federal courts by making the Canton, Aberdeen, and Nashville Railroad Company a party defendant in the cause."

"2. That the complainant, by its original bill, showed no jurisdiction

Page 180 U. S. 30

in this court because of the subject matter stated, inasmuch as the bill set forth no particular Federal question."

"3. That there was no jurisdiction in this matter, because the bill was a suit against the state of Mississippi and in violation of the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States."

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