Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1

Document 39

Jansen v. Vrow Christina Magdalena

13 Fed. Cas. 356, no. 7,216 D.S.C. 1794

Bee, District Judge . . . The principal points for the decision of the court appear to be: 1st. Whether this court has any and what jurisdiction relative to matters arising on the high seas. 2dly. Whether the 17th article of the treaty with France restrain such jurisdiction; or whether the act of the 5th of June last controls it. By the third section of the judiciary act of congress [1 Stat. 73] it is declared that there shall be a district court in each district to consist of one judge, who shall hold four sessions annually, and special courts at his discretion. By the ninth section, the powers of the district courts are expressed, 1st, as to criminal, 2d, as to civil causes. The court shall have exclusive original cognizance in all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; and concurrent jurisdiction with the courts of the several states, or the circuit courts of the United States (as the case may be) where an alien sues for a tort only in violation of the law of nations, or a treaty of the United States. By the 2d section of the 3d article of the constitution of the United States, it is declared, that the judicial power of the United States shall extend to all cases arising under the constitution and laws of the United States, and treaties made, or to be made. To all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be a party, the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction; in all other cases, appellate jurisdiction under such regulations as congress shall make. The circuit court has no original jurisdiction; but has appellate jurisdiction in causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; in which the district court alone has original jurisdiction. Redress must be had there, or nowhere. Suitors, however injured, would look in vain to the laws of this country for redress. They would be stopped in limine, and the appellate jurisdiction of the circuit and of the supreme courts would be virtually annihilated; since there would be no terminus à quo, no fixed point from which they might commence their procedure.

In addition to the clauses already recited from the judiciary act, the judges of the supreme court have by their decree in Glass v. The Betsey, 3 Dall. [3 U. S.] 6, decided that the several district courts throughout the United States possess all the powers of courts of admiralty, whether considered as instance or prize courts. That case was elaborately argued, and with great ability. The judges of the supreme court held it under advisement for some days, and then decided it so fully as to leave the jurisdiction of this court no longer doubtful. The question was considered as well with respect to the law of nations, as to the 17th article of the treaty with France; and, was fully set at rest on both grounds. But it is said that the act of congress of June, 1794 [1 Stat. 384], by declaring that the district courts shall take cognizance of complaints, by whomsoever instituted, in cases of captures made within the waters of the United States or within a marine league of the coasts or shores thereof, intended to oust them of all other jurisdiction. But the argument has no sort of force. Glass's Case [supra], had established the jurisdiction of the court in cases of neutral or American property captured on the high seas and brought infra praesidia of our courts. It was there determined that, under such circumstances, the American citizen, or neutral, might institute his suit in the district court, and obtain redress from it. But the act of congress now relied on goes farther, and enacts that, if our jurisdictional limits are violated, restitution shall be made even to a party belligerent who shall complain to the court, and prove his case to come within the provisions of that act. The sixth and seventh articles of the treaty with France assert and recognize the same right. Holland, Prussia, and Sweden have done so by their several treaties with us. No state could maintain its peace or sovereignty, if it were otherwise. I have no hesitation, therefore, in pronouncing that the district court has full jurisdiction upon the present occasion.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1, Document 39
The University of Chicago Press

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