Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1

[Volume 4, Page 264]

Document 43

Turner v. Bank of North America

4 Dall. 8 1799

Ellsworth, Chief Justice. The action below was brought by the president and directors of the Bank of North America, who are well described to be citizens of Pennsylvania, against Turner and others, who are well described to be citizens of North Carolina, upon a promissory note, made by the defendant, payable to Biddle & Co., and which, by assignment, became the property of the plaintiffs. Biddle & Co. are no otherwise described, than as "using trade and merchandize in partnership together," at Philadelphia or North Carolina. And judgment was for the plaintiff.

The error assigned, the only one insisted on, is, that it does not appear from the record, that Biddle & Co. the promisees, or any of them, are citizens of a state other than that of North Carolina, or aliens.

A circuit court, though an inferior court, in the language of the constitution, is not so in the language of the common law; nor are its proceedings subject to the scrutiny of those narrow rules, which the caution, or jealousy, of the courts at Westminster, long applied to courts of that denomination; but are entitled to as liberal intendments, or presumptions, in favour of their regularity, as those of any supreme court. A circuit court however, is of limited jurisdiction; and has cognizance, not of cases generally, but only of a few specially circumstanced, amounting to a small proportion of the cases, which an unlimited jurisdiction would embrace. And the fair presumption is (not as with regard to a court of general jurisdiction, that a cause is within its jurisdiction unless the contrary appears, but rather) that a cause is without its jurisdiction till the contrary appears. This renders it necessary, in as much as the proceedings of no court can be deemed valid further than its jurisdiction appears, or can be presumed, to set forth upon the record of a circuit court, the facts or circumstances, which give jurisdiction, either expressly, or in such manner as to render them certain by legal intendment. Among those circumstances, it is necessary, where the defendant appears to be a citizen of one state, to show that the plaintiff is a citizen of some other state, or an alien; or if (as in the present case) the suit be upon a promissory note, by an assignee, to show, that the original promissee is so: for, by a special provision of the statute, it is his description, as well as that of the assignee, which effectuates jurisdiction.

But here the description given of the promissee only is, that "he used trade" at Philadelphia or North Carolina; which, taking either place for that where he used trade, contains no averment that he was a citizen of a state, other than that of North Carolina, or an alien; nor any thing which, by legal intendment, can amount to such averment. We must, therefore, say that there is error.

It is exceedingly to be regretted, that exceptions which might be taken in abatement and often cured in a moment, should be reserved to the last stage of a suit, to destroy its fruits.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1, Document 43
The University of Chicago Press