[317 U.S. 69, 70] Mr. Kumezo Kawato, pro se.
Mr. Lasher B. Gallagher, of Los Angeles, Cal., for respondent.
Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioner, born in Japan, became a resident of the United States in 1905. April 15, 1941, he filed a libel in admiralty against the vessel Rally in the District Court for the Southern District of California. He claimed wages were due him for services as a seaman and fisherman on the Rally, and sought an allowance for maintenance and cure on allegations that he had sustained severe injuries while engaged in the performance of his duties. Claimants of the vessel appeared and filed an answer on grounds not here material, but later, on January 20, 1942, moved to abate the action on the ground that petitioner, by reason of the state of war then existing between Japan and the United States, had become an enemy alien and therefore had no 'right to prosecute any action in any [317 U.S. 69, 71] court of the United States during the pendency of said war.' The District Judge granted the motion. Petitioner sought mandamus in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to compel the District Court to vacate its judgment and proceed to trial of his action, but his motion for leave to file was denied without opinion. We granted leave to file in this Court, 316 U.S. 650 , 62 S.Ct. 1301, and the cause was submitted on answer, briefs and oral argument.
Although the Court's order of abatement for the duration of the war rested solely on the ground of petitioner's status as an alien enemy, it has been argued here that the writ should be denied because the Court could have dismissed the bill on other grounds, particularly claimed defects in the allegations of the libel. These contentions are irrelevant here. Unless the action was properly abated for the reasons set out in the motion and the Court's order, the petitioner is entitled to have the District Court proceed with his action and pass upon the sufficiency of his allegations. This is an essential step in an orderly trial leading to a final judgment from which an appeal will lie to correct errors. If the Court's order of abatement was erroneous, mandamus is the appropriate remedy. 28 U.S.C. 377, 28 U.S.C.A. 377; McClellan v. Carland, 217 U.S. 268 , 279-282, 30 S.Ct. 501, 503, 504; Ex parte Metropolitan Water Co., 220 U.S. 539, 546 , 31 S.Ct. 600, 603.
Petitioner contends that he has the right under the common law and treaties to proceed with his action, and that this right is not limited by the statutes. In our view the possibility of treaty rights, which has not been argued extensively, need not be considered. Applicable treaties are ambiguous and should not be interpreted without more care than is necessary in this case.