Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1

Document 35

Shedden v. Custis

21 Fed. Cas. 1218, no. 12,736 C.C.D.Va. 1793

Iredell, Circuit Justice. The jurisdiction of the court is limited to particular persons; and, therefore, must be averred. For the difference has been rightly taken by the defendant's counsel, between courts of limited and those of general jurisdiction. In the latter, exceptions to the jurisdiction must be pleaded; but in the former the defendant is not bound to plead it, for the plaintiff must entitle himself to sue there. If the declaration had alleged that the plaintiff was a foreigner, then the defendant must have pleaded the disability, as he would have admitted his capacity to sue. Ability to sue here is a fact which rests more in the knowledge of the plaintiff than of the defendant; and, therefore, the former should show himself capable of suing here. It is not the same with regard to the place of contract, for that the defendant knows as well as the plaintiff; and, therefore, if there be any exceptions on that ground, it being a thing in the knowledge of the defendant, he should plead it for the same reason that the plaintiff must aver his capacity in the other case. It is important that it should appear upon the record that the court had jurisdiction and has only decided on cases within its cognizance.

Jay, Circuit Justice. I at first thought it questionable on the ground of a difference between jurisdiction over the subject-matter and over persons. But on reflection, I do not think the distinction is important. The English practice has been rightly stated by the defendant's counsel, and those rules are more necessary to be observed here than there, on account of a difference of the general and state governments, which should be kept separate, and each left to do the business properly belonging to it. Therefore, this court should not exceed its limits, and try causes not within its jurisdiction. Consequently, the jurisdiction ought to appear, but it does not in this case; and, therefore, I think the judgment should be arrested.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1, Document 35
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