EAST T. V. & GA. R. CO. V. SOUTHERN TEL. CO., 112 U. S. 306 (1884)

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U.S. Supreme Court

East T. V. & Ga. R. Co. v. Southern Tel. Co., 112 U.S. 306 (1884)

East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad

Company v. Southern Telegraph Company

Submitted November 10, 1884

Decided November 24, 1884

112 U.S. 306


Hilton v. Dickinson, 108 U. S. 165, again affirmed.

The circuit courts of the United States, taking jurisdiction of a proceeding to enforce a remedy given by a state statute, can act only in accordance with the statute creating the remedy, and are possessed only of the powers conferred chanrobles.com-redchanrobles.com-red

Page 112 U. S. 307

by it on the state courts, and this Court will modify a supersedeas granted by a circuit court of the United States in such a proceeding in order to make it conform to the powers conferred upon state courts in that respect.

This was a motion to dismiss a writ of error for want of jurisdiction; or, if that should be denied, to modify the supersedeas.

Sections 1930, 1931, 1932, of the Code of Alabama, give telegraph companies incorporated by other states a

"right of way over the lands, franchises, and easements of other persons and corporations, and the right to erect poles and to establish offices, upon making just compensation, as now provided by law."

Sections 3580 to 3600, inclusive, prescribe the mode in which such a company may appropriate private property within the state for its uses. Application must be made therefor by petition to the probate court or to the circuit court of the proper county, both of which courts are invested with jurisdiction for that purpose. The proceedings in the court after the filing of the petition are to be in rem, and must

"conform as nearly as may be, except as herein otherwise provided, to the proceedings in rem in the admiralty courts, and be conducted according to the rules of such courts so far as practicable."

Sec. 3581. Provision is them made for notice of the filing of the petition to the owner of the property (sec. 3583) and for the impaneling of a jury,

"who, under the direction of the judge, shall well inquire, and true assessment make, of the damages and compensation which the owner . . . shall be entitled to have for the appropriation, . . . , and the assessment of compensation for any right of way shall be made irrespective of any benefit from any improvement proposed by the petitioner."

Sec. 3586.

"The owner . . . may intervene in the cause for his interest therein, and evidence may be offered on either side, but no delay in the assessment to be made by the jury shall be caused by any controversy or evidence in respect to the title or ownership of the land, or of any part thereof."

Sec. 3587.

"The verdict . . . shall be immediately entered in proper form upon the minutes of the court, to be kept for such

Page 112 U. S. 308

causes, and the amount thereof for each parcel shall constitute the compensation to be paid therefor, as hereinafter directed, before the appropriation thereof shall be made by the petitioner."

Sec. 3589. It is specially made the duty of the court to speed the cause. Sec. 3590.

"An appeal to correct errors of law only may be had, if applied for within three months after the assessment, to either the circuit court of the same county or the supreme court, . . . but no appeal shall, during the pendency of it, prevent or hinder the petitioner from occupying the land involved therein, and proceeding to work thereon; but the petitioner, before doing so, shall pay into the court, for the person or persons entitled thereto, the amount of damages and compensation by the jury therefor assessed."

Sec. 3593. The amount assessed may be paid to the person entitled thereto, or to the clerk of the court. Sec. 3594.

The Southern Telegraph Company, a New York corporation, being desirous of erecting a line of telegraph from Montgomery, Alabama, by way of Selma to Meridian, in the State of Mississippi, filed in the Probate Court of Montgomery County, Alabama, an application for the proper proceedings under the Code to enable it to acquire the right of way for that purpose along a line of railroad in Alabama operated by the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad Company from Selma to the Mississippi state line. Upon this application's being made, the necessary notices were served on the railroad company to appear on the 10th of April, 1884, and a jury was summoned for an inquiry into the amount of compensation to be paid the company for the appropriation sought. On the day named, the railroad company intervened for its interest, and showed cause against the appropriation, and averred in its intervention that the value of the property to be appropriated was $12,000, and that this was the proper measure of the compensation and damages it was entitled to if the prayer of the petition should be allowed. On the same day, the railroad company filed in the probate court a petition for the removal of the cause to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Middle district of Alabama chanrobles.com-redchanrobles.com-red

Page 112 U. S. 309

on the ground that the value of the matter in dispute exceeded the sum of $500, and the telegraph company was a citizen of New York, and the railroad company a citizen of Tennessee. Under this petition, a removal was effected, and a jury impaneled in the circuit court of the United States "to inquire, and true assessment make, of the damages and compensation" the railroad company was entitled to have for the appropriation. The compensation was assessed by the jury at $500, and this amount, as well as the costs, was paid to the clerk of the court. Thereupon a judgment was entered that the telegraph company have and enjoy "the rights, ways, and easements claimed in the petition."

From that judgment this writ of error was brought. The telegraph company now moves 1, to dismiss the writ because the value of the matter in dispute does not exceed $5,000, and, if that motion is not granted, then 2, that the supersedeas herein may be modified so as to allow it to occupy the right of way involved in the proceedings, and to work thereon pending this writ of error.


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