Mr. David G. Bress, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.
Messrs. Wendell D. Allen and Francis B. Burch, Baltimore, Md., for respondent.
Sol. Gen. Philip B. Perlman, Washington, D.C., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court. [ National Mut. Ins. Co. of Dist. of Col. v. Tidewater Transfer Co. 337 U.S. 582 (1949) ] [337 U.S. 582 , 583]
Mr. Justice JACKSON announced the judgment of the Court and an opinion in which Mr. Justice BLACK and Mr. Justice BURTON join.
This case calls up for review a holding that it is unconstitutional for Congress to open federal courts in the several states to action by a citizen of the District of Columbia against a citizen of one of the states. The petitioner, as plaintiff, commenced in the United States District Court for Maryland an action for money judgment on a claim arising out of an insurance contract. No cause of action under the laws or Constitution of the United States was pleaded, jurisdiction being predicated only upon an allegation of diverse citizenship. The diversity set forth was that plaintiff is a corporation created by District of Columbia law, while the defendant is a corporation chartered by Virginia, amenable to suit in Maryland by virtue of a license to do business there. The learned District Judge concluded that, while this diversity met jurisdictional requirements under the Act of Cognress,1 it did not comply with diversity requirements of the Constitution as to federal jurisdiction, and so dismissed. 2 The Court of Appeals, by a divided court, affirmed. 3 Of twelve district courts that had considered the question up to the time review in this Court was sought, all except three had held the enabling Act unconstitutional,4 and the two Courts of Appeals which had [337 U.S. 582 , 584] spoken on the subject agreed with that conclusion. 5 The controversy obviously was an appropriate one for review here and writ of certiorari issued in the case. 6
The history of the controversy begins with that of the Republic. In defining the cases and controversies to which the judicial power of the United States could extend, the Constitution included those 'between citizens of different States.'7 In the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress created a system of federal courts of first instance and gave them jurisdiction of suits 'between a citizen of the State where the suit is brought, and a citizen of another State.'8 In 1804, the Supreme Court, through Chief Justice Marshall, held that a citizen of the District of Columbia was not a citizen of a State within the meaning and intendment of this Act. 9 This decision closed federal courts in the states to citizens of the District of Columbia in diversity cases, and for 136 years they remained closed. In 1940 Congress enacted the statute challenged here. It confers on such courts jurisdiction if the action 'is between citizens of different States, or [337 U.S. 582 , 585] citizens of the District of Columbia, the Territory of Hawaii, or Alaska, and any State or Territory.' 10 The issue here depends upon the validity of this Act, which, in substance, was reenacted by a later Congress11 as part of the Judicial Code. 12
Before concentrating on detail, it may be well to place the general issue in a larger perspective. This constitutional issue affects only the mechanics of administering justice in our federation. It does not involve an extension or a denial of any fundamental right or immunity which goes to make up our freedoms. Those rights and freedoms do not include immunity from suit by a citizen of Columbia or exemption from process of the federal courts. Defendant concedes that it can presently be sued in some court of law, if not this one, and it grants that Congress may make it suable at plaintiff's complaint in some, if not this, federal court. Defendant's contention only amounts to this; that it cannot be made to answer this plaintiff in the particular court which Congress has decided is the just and convenient forum.
The considerations which bid us strictly to apply the Constitution to congressional enactments which invade fundamental freedoms or which reach for powers that would substantially disturb the balance between the Union and its component states, are not present here. In mere mechanics of government and administration we [337 U.S. 582 , 586] should, so far as the language of the great Charter fairly will permit, give Congress freedom to adapt its machinery to the needs of changing times. In no case could the admonition of the great Chief Justice be more appropriately heeded-'* * * we must never forget, that it is a constitution we are expounding.'13
Our first inquiry is whether, under the third, or Judiciary, Article of the Constitution,14 extending the judicial power of the United States to cases or controversies 'between citizens of different States,' a citizen of the District of Columbia has the standing of a citizen of one of the states of the Union. This is the question which the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall answered in the negative, by way of dicta if not of actual decision. Hepburn and Dundas v. Ellzey, 2 Cranch 445. To be sure, nothing was before that Court except interpretation of a statute15 which conferred jurisdiction substantially in the words of the Constitution with nothing in the text or context to show that Congress intended to regard the District as a state. But Marshall resolved the statutory question by invoking the analogy of the constitutional provisions of the same tenor and reasoned that the District was not a state for purposes of the Constitution and, hence, was not for purposes of the Act. The opinion summarily disposed of arguments to the contrary, including the one repeated here that other provisions of the Constitution indicate that 'the term state is sometimes used in its more enlarged sense.' Here, as there, 'on examining the passages quoted, they do not prove what was to be shown by them.' 2 Cranch 445, 453. Among his contemporaries at least Chief Justice Marshall was not generally censured for undue literalness in interpreting the lan- [337 U.S. 582 , 587] guage of the Constitution to deny federal power and he wrote from close personal knowledge of the Founders and the foundation of our constitutional structure. Noe did he underestimate the equitable claims which his decision denied to residents of the District, for he said that 'It is true that as citizens of the United States, and of that particular district which is subject to the jurisdiction of congress, it is extraordinary that the courts of the United States, which are open to aliens, and to the citizens of every state in the union, should be closed upon them. But this is a subject for legislative not for judicial consideration.'16
The latter sentence, to which much importance is attached, is somewhat ambiguous, because constitutional amendment as well as statutory revision is for legislative, not judicial, consideration. But the opinion as a whole leaves no doubt that the Court did not then regard the District as a state for diversity purposes.
To now overrule this early decision of the Court on this point and hold that the District of Columbia is a state would, as that opinion pointed out, give to the word 'state' a meaning in the Article which sets up the judicial establishment quite different from that which it carries in those Articles which set up the political departments and in other Articles of the instrument. While the word is one which can contain many meanings, such inconsistency in a single instrument is to be implied only where the context clearly requires it. There is no evidence that the Founders, pressed by more general and mmediate anxieties, thought of the special problems of the District of Columbia in connection with the judiciary. This is not strange, for the District was then only a contemplated entity. But had they thought of it, there is nothing to indicate that it would have been referred to as a state and [337 U.S. 582 , 588] much to indicate that it would have required special provisions to fit its anomalous relationship into the new judicial system, just as it did to fit it into the new political system.
In referring to the 'States' in the fateful instrument which amalgamated them into the 'United States,' the Founders obviously were not speaking of states in the abstract. They referred to those concrete organized societies which were thereby contributing to the federation by delegating some part of their sovereign powers and to those that should later be organized and admitted to the partnership in the method prescribed. They obviously did not contemplate unorganized and dependent spaces as states. The District of Columbia being nonexistent in any form, much less as a state, at the time of the compact, certainly was not taken into the Union of states by it, nor has it since been admitted as a new state is required to be admitted.
We therefore decline to overrule the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall, and we hold that the District of Columbia is not a state within Article III of the Constitution. In other words, cases between citizens of the District and those of the states were not included in the catalogue of controversies over which the Congress could give jurisdiction to the federal courts by virtue of Art. III.
This conclusion does not, however, determine that Congress lacks power under other provisions of the Constitution to enact this legislation. Congress, by the Act in question, sought not to challenge or disagree with the decision of Chief Justice Marshall that the District of Columbia is not a state for such purposes. It was careful to avoid conflict with that decision by basing the new legislation on powers that had not been relied upon by the First Congress in passing the Act of 1789.
The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives recommended the Act of April 20, 1940, as 'a rea- [337 U.S. 582 , 589] sonable exercise of the constitutional power of Congress to legislate for the District of Columbia and for the Territories.' 17 This power the Constitution confers in broad terms. By Art. I, Congress is empowered 'to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District.' 18 And of course it was also authorized 'to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution' such powers. 19 These provisions were not relevant in Chief Justice Marshall's interpretation of the Act of 1789 because it did not refer in terms to the District but only to states. It is therefore significant that, having decided that District citizens' cases were not brought within federal jurisdiction by Art. III and the statute enacted pursuant to it, the Chief Justice added, as we have seen, that it was extraordinary that the federal courts should be closed to the citizens of 'that particular district which is subject to the jurisdiction of congress.' Such language clearly refers to Congress' Art. I power of 'exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District.' And mention of that power seems particularly significant in the context of Marshall's further statement that the matter is a subject for 'legislative not for judicial consideration.' Even if it be considered speculation to say that this was an expression by the Chief Justice that Congress had the requisite power under Art. I, it would be in the teeth of his language to say that it is a denial of such power. The Congress had acted on the belief that it possesses that power. We believe their conclusion is well founded. [337 U.S. 582 , 590] It is elementary that the exclusive responsibility of Congress for the welfare of the District includes both power and duty to provide its inhabitants and citizens with courts adequate to adjudge not only controversies among themselves but also their claims against, as well as suits brought by, citizens of the various states. It long has been held that Congress may clothe District of Columbia courts not only with the jurisdiction and powers of federal courts in the several states but with such authority as a state may confer on her courts. Kendall v. United States ex rel. Stokes, 12 Pet. 524, 619; Capital Traction Co. v. Hof, 174 U.S. 1 ; O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U.S. 516 . The defendant here does not challenge the power of Congress to assure justice to the citizens of the District by means of federal instrumentalities, or to empower a federal court within the District to run its process to summon defendants here from any part of the country. And no reason has been advanced why a special statutory court for cases of District citizens could not be authorized to proceed elsewhere in the United States to sit, where necessary or proper, to discharge the duties of Congress toward District citizens.
However, it is contended that Congress may not combine this function, under Art. I, with those under Art. III, in district courts of the United States. Two objections are urged to this. One is that no jurisdiction other than specified in Art. III can be imposed on courts that exercise the judicial power of the United States thereunder. The other is that Art. I powers over the District of Columbia must be exercised solely within that geographic area.
Of course there are limits to the nature of duties which Congress may impose on the constitutional courts vested with the federal judicial power. The doctrine of separation of powers is fundamental in our system. It arises, [337 U.S. 582 , 591] however, not from Art. III nor any other single provision of the Constitution, but because 'behind the words of the constitutional provisions are postulates which limit and control.' Chief Justice Hughes in Principality of Monaco v. State of Mississippi, 292 U.S. 313, 323 , 54 S. Ct. 745, 748. The permeative nature of this doctrine was early recognized during the Constitutional Convention. Objection that the present provision giving federal courts jurisdiction of cases arising 'under this Constitution' would permit usurpation of nonjudicial functions by the federal courts was overruled as unwarranted since it was 'generally supposed that the jurisdiction given was constructively limited to cases of a Judiciary nature.' 2 Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention, 430. And this statute reflects that doctrine. It does not authorize or require either the district courts or this Court to participate in any legislative, administrative, political or other nonjudicial function or to render any advisory opinion. The jurisdiction conferred is limited to controversies of a justiciable nature, the sole feature distinguishing them from countless other controversies handled by the same courts being the fact that one party is a District citizen. Nor has the Congress by this statute attempted to usurp any judicial power. It has deliberately chosen the district courts as the appropriate instrumentality through which to exercise part of the judicial functions incidential to exertion of sovereignty over the District and its citizens.
Unless we are to deny to Congress the same choice of means through which to govern the District of Columbia that we have held it to have in exercising other legislative powers enumerated in the same Article, we cannot hold that Congress lacked the power it sough to exercise in the Act before us.
It is too late to hold that judicial functions incidental to Art. I powers of Congress cannot be conferred on [337 U.S. 582 , 592] courts existing under Art. III for it has been done with this Court's approval. O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U.S. 516 . In that case it was held that, although District of Columbia courts are Art. III courts, they can also exercise judicial power conferred by Congress pursuant to Art. I. The fact that District of Columbia courts, as local courts, can also be given administrative or legislative functions which other Art. III courts cannot exercise, does but emphasize the fact that, although the latter are limited to the exercise of judicial power, it may constitutionally be received from either Art. III, or Art. I, and that congressional power over the District, flowing from Art. I, is plenary in every respect.
It is likewise too late to say that we should reach this result by overruling Chief Justice Marshall's view, unless we are prepared also to overrule much more, including some of our own very recent utterances. Many powers of Congress other than its power to govern Columbia require for their intelligent and discriminating exercise determination of controversies of a justiciable character. In no instance has this Court yet held that jurisdiction of such cases could not be placed in the regular federal courts that Congress has been authorized to ordain and establish. We turn to some analogous situations in which we have approved the very course that Congress has taken here.
Congress is given power by Art. I to pay debts of the United States. That involves as an incident the determination of disputed claims. We have held unanimously that congressional authority under Art. I, not the Art. III jurisdiction over suits to which the United States is a party, is the sole source of power to establish the Court of Claims and of the judicial power which that court exercises. Williams v. United States, 289 U.S. 553 . In that decision we also noted that it is this same Art. I power that is conferred on district courts by the [337 U.S. 582 , 593] Tucker Act20 which authorizes them to hear and determine such claims in limited amounts. Since a legislative court such as the Court of Claims is 'incapable of receiving' Art. III judicial power, American Insurance Co. v. Canter, 1 Pet. 511, 546, it is clear that the power thus exercised by that court and concurrently by the district courts flows from Art. I, not Art. III. Indeed, more recently and again unanimously, this Court has said that by the Tucker Act the Congress authorized the district courts to sit as a court of claims21 exercising the same but no more judicial power. United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 591 , 771, 772. And but a few terms ago, in considering an Act by which Congress directed rehearing of a rejected claim and its redetermination in conformity with directions given in the Act, Chief Justice Stone, with the concurrence of all sitting colleagues, reasoned that 'The problem presented here is no different than if Congress had given a like direction to any district court to be followed as in other Tucker Act * * * cases.' Pope v. United States, 323 U.S. 1, 14 , 23, Congress has taken us at our word and recently conferred on the district courts exclusive jurisdiction of tort claims cognizable under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 60 Stat. 842, 843, also enacted [337 U.S. 582 , 594] pursuant to Art. I powers. 22 See Brooks v. United States, 337 U.S. 49 .
Congress also is given power in Art. I to make uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies. That this, and not the judicial power under Art. III, is the source of our system of reorganizations and bankruptcy is obvious, Continental Illinois Nat. Bank & Trust Co. v. Chicago Rock Island & Pacific R. Co., 294 U.S. 648 . But not only may the district courts be required to handle these proceedings but Congress may add to their jurisdiction cases between the trustee and others that, but for the bankruptcy powers, would be beyond their jurisdiction because of lack of diversity required under Art. III. Schumacher v. Beeler, 293 U.S. 367, 233 . In that case, Chief Justice Hughes for a unanimous court wrote that by virtue of its Art. I authority over bankruptcies the Congress could confer on the regular district courts jurisdiction of 'all controversies at law and in equity, as distinguished from proceedings in bankruptcy, between trustees as such and adverse claimants' to the extent specified in 23, sub. b of the Bankruptcy Act as amended, 11 U.S.C.A. 46, sub. b. Such jurisdiction was there upheld in a plenary suit, in a district court, by which the trustee sought equitable relief rely- [337 U.S. 582 , 595] ing on allegations raising only questions of Ohio law concerning the validity under that law of a sheriff's levy and execution. Possession by the trustee not being shown, and there being no diversity, jurisdiction in the district court could flow only from the statute. Chief Justice Hughes noted that the distinction between proceedings in bankruptcy and suits at law and in equity was recognized by the terms of the statute itself, but held that 'Congress (Const. Art. 1, 8), by virtue of its constitutional authority over bankruptcies, could confer or withhold jurisdiction to entertain such suits and could prescribe the conditions upon which the federal courts should have jurisdiction. * * * Exercising that power, the Congress prescribed in section 23, sub. b the condition of consent on the part of the defendant sued by the trustee. Section 23, sub. b was thus in effect a grant of jurisdiction subject to that condition.' 293 U.S. 367, 374 , 234. He concluded that the statute granted jurisdiction to the district court 'although the bankrupt could not have brought suit there if proceedings in bankruptcy had not been instituted * * *.' 293 U.S. 367, 377 , 235. And he stated the correct view to be that 23 conferred substantive jurisdiction, 293 U.S. 367, 371 , 232, disapproving statements in an earlier case that Congress lacked power to confer such jurisdiction. Id., 293 U.S. at page 377, 55 S.Ct. at page 235. Thus the Court held that Congress had power to authorize an Art. III court to entertain a non-Art. III suit because such judicial power was conferred under Art. I. Indeed the present Court has assumed, without even discussion, that Congress has such power. In Williams v. Austrian, 331 U.S. 642, 657 , 1450, the Chief Justice, speaking for the Court, said that '* * * Congress intended by the elimination of 23 (from Chapter X of the Bankruptcy Act) to establish the jurisdiction of federal courts to hear plenary suits brought by a reorganization trustee, even though diversity or other usual ground for federal jurisdiction is lacking.' (Em- [337 U.S. 582 , 596] phasis supplied.) There was vigorous dissent as to the meaning of the statute, but the dissenting Justices referred to the Court's holding that 'a Chapter X trustee may bring this plenary suit in personam in a federal district court not the reorganization court, although neither diversity of citizenship nor other ground of federal jurisdiction exists.' 331 U.S. 642 , 664, 665, 1454. And the dissent continued: 'No doubt Congress could authorize such a suit. See Schumacher v. Beeler, 293 U.S. 367, 374 , 233.'
This assumption by the Court in the Beeler and Austrian cases, that the Congress had power to confer on the district courts jurisdiction of nondiversity suits involving only state law questions made unnecessary any discussion of the source of the assumed power. In view of Congress' plenary control over bankruptcies, the Court may have grounded such assumption on Art. I. Or it might have considered that the jurisdiction was based on Art. III, and statutes enacted pursuant to it, giving the district courts jurisdiction over suits arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Had the Court held such a view, this latter might have commended itself as the most obvious answer. Consequently, silence in this respect, in the decision of each case, seems significant, particularly in contrast with repeated reference to Art. I power in the Beeler case, and sweeping language in the Austrian case that such jurisdiction existed despite lack of diversity 'or other usual ground for federal jurisdiction.' Nevertheless, it is now asserted, in retrospect, that those cases did arise under the laws of the United States. No justification is offered for that conclusion and there is no effort to say just why or how the cases did so arise. This would indeed be difficult if we still adhere to the doctrine of Mr. Justice Holmes that 'A suit arises under the law that creates the cause [337 U.S. 582 , 597] of action.' American Well Works Co. v. Layne & Bowler Co., 241 U.S. 257, 260 , 586, for the cause of action in each case rested solely on state law.
But the matter does not rest on inference alone. Other decisions of this Court demonstrate conclusively that jurisdiction over the Beeler and Austrian suits was not and could not have been conferred under Art. III and statutes concerning suits arising under the laws of the United States. A most thoroughly-considered utterance of this Court on that subject was given by Mr. Justice Cardozo, in Gully v. First National Bank, 299 U.S. 109 , where he said, without dissent, 'How and when a case arises 'under the Constitution or laws of the United States' has been much considered in the books. Some tests are well established. To bring a case within the statute, a right or immunity created by the Constitution or laws of the United States must be an element, and an essential one, of the plaintiff's cause of action. * * * (Emphasis added.) The right or immunity must be such that it will be supported if the Constitution or laws of the United States are given one construction or effect, and defeated if they receive another. * * * A genuine and present controversy, not merely a possible or conjectural one, must exist with reference thereto * * * and the controversy must be disclosed upon the face of the complaint * * *.' 299 U.S. 109, 112 -113, 97. After reviewing previous cases, Mr. Justice Cardozo referred to a then recent opinion by Mr. Justice Stone in which he said, for a unanimous court, that federal jurisdiction 'may not be invoked where the right asserted is non-federal, merely because the plaintiff's right to sue is derived from federal law, or because the property involved was obtained under federal statute. The federal nature of the right to be established is decisive-not the source of the authority to establish it.' People of Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. [337 U.S. 582 , 598] 476, 483, 450. (Emphasis added.) 23 See also Switchmen's Union of North America v. National Mediation Board, 320 U.S. 297 ; General Committee of Adjustment of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers for Missouri-Kansas-Texas R.R. v. Missouri-Kansas-Texas R. Co., 320 U.S. 323 .
Neither the Austrian nor the Beeler case meets these tests, required before a case can be said to arise under the laws of the United States, any more than does the case before us. Austrian, as trustee, sued in equity for an accounting based on a charge that affairs of a state-created corporation had been conducted by the officers in violation of state law. Beeler, as trustee, sued on a contention that a levy on property b an Ohio sheriff was void under state law. Both controversies, like the one before [337 U.S. 582 , 599] us, called for a determination of no law question except those arising under state laws. The only way in which any law of the United States contributed to the case was in opening the district courts to the trustee, under Art. I powers of Congress, just as the present statute, under the same Article, opens those courts to residents of the District of Columbia. In each case, in the words of Chief Justice Stone, the federal law provided, not the right sought to be established, but only the authority of the trustee to establish it. The fact that the congressional power over bankruptcy granted by Art. I could open the court to the trustee does not mean that such suits arise under the laws of the United States; but it does mean that Art. I can supply a source of judicial power for their adjudication. The distinction is important and it is decisive on this issue.
Neither the Beeler nor the Austrian case was one arising under the laws of the United States within the clear language of recent holdings by this Court. Unless we are to deny the jurisdiction in such cases which has consistently been upheld, we must rely on the Art. I powers of the Congress. We have been cited to no holding that such jurisdiction cannot spring from that Article. Under Art. I the Congress has given the district courts not only jurisdiction over cases arising under the bankruptcy law but also judicial power over nondiversity cases which do not arise under that or any other federal law. And this Court has upheld the latter grant.
Consequently, we can deny validity to this present Act of Congress, only by saying that the power over the District given by Art. I is somehow less ample than that over bankruptcy given by the same Article. If Congress could require this district court to decide this very case if it were brought by a trustee, it is hard to see why it may not require its decision for a solvent claimant when done in pursuance of other Art. I powers. [337 U.S. 582 , 600] We conclude that where Congress in the exercise of its powers under Art. I finds it necessary to provide those on whom its power is exerted with access to some king of court or tribunal for determination of controversies that are within the traditional concept of the justiciable, it may open the regular federal courts to them regardless of lack of diversity of citizenship. The basis of the holdings we have discussed is that when Congress deems that for such purposes it owes a forum to claimants and trustees, it may execute its power in this manner. The Congress, with equal justification apparently considers that it also owes such a forum to the residents of the District of Columbia in execution of its power and duty under the same Article. We do not see how the one could be sustained and the other denied.
We therefore hold that Congress may exert its power to govern the District of Columbia by imposing the judicial function of adjudicating justiciable controversies on the regular federal courts24 which under the Constitution it has the power to ordain and establish and which it may invest with jurisdiction and from which it may withhold jurisdiction 'in the exact degrees and character which to Congress may seem proper for the public good.' Lockerty v. Phillips, 319 U.S. 182, 187 , 1022.
The argument that congressional powers over the District are not to be exercised outside of its territorial lim ts also is pressed upon us. But this same contention has long been held by this Court to be untenable. In Cohens [337 U.S. 582 , 601] v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 429, Chief Justice Marshall, answering the argument that Congress, when legislating for the District, 'was reduced to a mere local legislature, whose laws could possess no obligation out of the ten miles square,' said 'Congress is not a local legislature, but exercises this particular power, like all its other powers, in its high character, as the legislature of the Union. The American peopel thought it a necessary power, and they conferred it for their own benefit. Being so conferred it carries with it all those incidental powers which are necessary to its complete and effectual execution.' In O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U.S. 516, 539 , 746, this Court approved a statement made by Circuit Judge Taft, later Chief Justice of this Court, speaking for himself and Judge (later Mr. Justice) Lurton, that "The object of the grant of exclusive legislation over the district was, therefore, national in the highest sense, and the city organized under the grant became the city, not of a state, not of a district, but of a nation. In the same article which granted the powers of exclusive legislation over its seat of government are conferred all the other great powers which make the nation, including the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. He would be a strict constructionist, indeed, who should deny to congress the exercise of this latter power in furtherance of that of organizing and maintaining a proper local government at the seat of government. Each is for a national purpose, and the one may be used in aid of the other.' * * *' And, just prior to enactment of the statute now challenged on this ground, the Court of Appeals for the District itself, sitting en banc, and relying on the foregoing authorities, had said that Congress 'possesses full and unlimited jurisdiction to provide for the general welfare' of District citizens 'by any and every act of legislation which it may deem conducive to that end. * * * [337 U.S. 582 , 602] when it legislates for the District, Congress acts as a legislature of national character, exercising complete legislative control as contrasted with the limited power of a state legislature, on the one hand, and as contrasted with the limited sovereignty which Congress exercises within the boundaries of the states, on the other.' Neild v. District of Columbia, 71 App.D.C. 306, 110 F.2d 246, 250.
We could not of course countenance any exercise of this plenary power either within or without the District if it were such as to draw into congressional control subjects over which there has been no delegation of power to the Federal Government. But as we have pointed out, the power to make this defendant suable by a District citizen is not claimed to be outside of federal competence. If Congress has power to bring the defendant from his home all the way to a forum within the District, there seems little basis for denying it power to require him to meet the plaintiff part way in another forum. The practical issue here is whether, if defendant is to be suable at all by District citizens, he must be compelled to come to the courts of the District of Columbia or perhaps to a special statutory court sitting outside of it, or whether Congress may authorize the regular federal courts to entertain the suit. We see no justification for holding that Congress in accomplishing an end admittedly within its power is restricted to those means which are most cumbersome and burdensome to a defendant. Since it may provide the District citizen with a federal forum in which to sue the citizens of one of the states, it is hard to imagine a fairer or less prejudiced one than the regular federal courts sitting in the defendant's own state. To vest the jurisdiction in them rather than in courts sitting in the District of Columbia would seem less harsh to defendan and more consistent with the principles of venue that prevail in our system [337 U.S. 582 , 603] under which defendants are generally suable in their home forums.
The Act before us, as we see it, is not a resort by Congress to these means to reach forbidden ends. Rather, Congress is reaching permissible ends by a choice of means which certainly are not expressly forbidden by the Constitution. No good reason is advanced for the Court to deny them by implication. In no matter should we pay more deference to the opinions of Congress than in its choice of instrumentalities to perform a function that is within its power. 25 To put federally administered justice within the reach of District citizens, in claims against citizens of another state, is an object which Congress has a right to accomplish. Its own carefully considered view that it has the power and that it is necessary and proper to utilize United States District Courts as means to this end, is entitled to great respect. Our own ideas as to the wisdom or desirability of such a statute or the constitutional provision authorizing it are totally irrelevant. Such a law of Congress should be stricken down [337 U.S. 582 , 604] only on a clear showing that it transgresses constitutional limitations. We think no such showing has been made. 26 The Act is valid.
The judgment is reversed.
Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE, with whom Mr. Justice MURPHY agrees, concurring.
I join in the Court's judgment. But I strongly dissent from the reasons assigned to support it in the opinion of Mr. Justice JACKSON.
While giving lip service to the venerable decision in Hepburn and Dundas v. Ellzey, 2 Cranch 445, and purporting to distinguish it, that opinion ignores nearly a century and a half of subsequent consistent construction. 1 In all practical consequence, it would overrule that decision with its laer reaffirmations. Pertinently it may be asked, how and where are those decisions to operate, if not just in the situation presented by this case? And, if there is no other, would they not be effectively overruled?
What is far worse and more important, the manner in which this reversal would be made, if adhered to by a majority of the Court, would entangle every district court of the United States for the first time in all of the contradictions, complexities and subtleties which have [337 U.S. 582 , 605] surrounded the courts of the District of Columbia in the maze woven by the 'legislative court-constitutional court' controversy running through this Court's decisions concerning them. 2
In my opinion it would be better to continue following what I conceive to be the original error of the Hepburn decision and its progeny than thus to ensnarl the general system of federal courts. Jurisdictional and doctrinal troubles enough we have concerning them without adding others by ruling now that they have the origin and jurisdiction of 'legislative' courts in addition to that of 'constitutional' courts created under Article III, with which alone they heretofore have been held endowed.
Moreover, however this case may be decided, there is no real escape from deciding what the word 'State' as used in Article III, 2 of the Constitution means. For if it is a limitation on Congress' power as to courts created under that Article, it is hard to see how it becomes no limitation when Congress decides to cast it off under some other Article, even one relating to its authority over the District of Columbia. If this may be done in the name of practical convenience and dual authority, or because Congress might find some other constitutional way to make citizens of the District suable elsewhere or to bring here for suit citizens from any part of the country, then what is a limitation imposed on the federal courts generally is none when Congress decides to disregard it by purporting to act under some other authorization.
The Constitution is not so self-contradictory. Nor are its limitations to be so easily evaded. The very essence of the problem is whether the Constitution meant to cut out from the diversity jurisdiction of courts created under Article III suits brought by or against citizens of the [337 U.S. 582 , 606] District of Columbia. That question is not answered by saying in one breath that it did and in the next that it did not.
Prior to enactment of the 1940 statute today considered, federal courts of the District of Columbia were the only federal courts which had jurisdiction to try nonfederal civil actions between citizens of the District and citizens of the several states. The doors of federal courts in every state, open to suits between parties of diverse state citizenship by virtue of Article III, 2 (as implemented by continuous congressional enactment), were closed to citizens of the District of Columbia. The 1940 statute was Congress' first express attempt to remedy the inequality which has obtained over since Chief Justice Marshall, in Hepburn and Dundas v. Ellzey, supra, construed the first Judiciary Act to exclude citizens of the District of Columbia. Marshall's construction of the 1789 statute was founded on his conclusion that the comparable language of the diversity clause in Article III, 2-'Citizens of different States'-did not embrace citizens of the District.
Marshall's view of the 1789 Act, iterated in his later dictum, Corporation of New Orleans v. Winter, 1 Wheat. 91, 94; cf. Sere v. Pitot, 6 Cranch 332, 336, has been consistently adhered to in judicial interpretation of later congressional grants of jurisdiction. 3 And, by accretion, the rule of the Hepburn case has acquired the force of a considered determination that, within the meaning of Article III, 2, 'the District of Columbia is not a state'4 and its citizens are therefore not citizens of any state within that Article's meaning. [337 U.S. 582 , 607] The opinion of Mr. Justice JACKSON in words 'reaffirms' this view of the diversity clause. Nevertheless, faced with an explicit congressional command to extend jurisdiction in nonfederal cases to the citizens of the District of Columbia, it finds that Congress has power to add to the Article III jurisdiction of federal district courts such further jurisdiction as Congress may think 'necessary and proper,' Const., Art. I , 8, cl. 18, to implement its power of 'exclusive Legislation,' Const., Art. I, 8, cl. 17, over the District of Columbia; and thereby to escape from the limitations of Article III.
From this reasoning I dissent. For I think that the Article III courts in the several states cannot be vested, by virtue of other provisions of the Constitution, with powers specifically denied them by the terms of Article III. If we accept the elementary doctrine that the words of Article III are not self-exercising grants of jurisdiction to the inferior federal courts,5 then I think those words must mark the limits of the power Congress may confer on the district courts in the several states. And I do not think we or Congress can override those limits through invocation of Article I without making the Constitution a self- contradicting instrument. If Marshall correctly read Article III as preventing Congress from unlocking [337 U.S. 582 , 608] the courthouse door to citizens of the District, it seems past beliefd that Article I was designed to enable Congress to pick the lock. For the diversity jurisdiction here thus sustained is identical in all respects with the diversity jurisdiction thought to be closed to District citizens by Article III: It is justice administered in the same courtroom and under the supervision of the same judge; it is, presumptively, justice fashioned by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C.A., and, now, under the aegis of Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins. 6 The jurisdiction today thus upheld is not simply an expurgated version of a banned original; it is the real thing.
To circumvent the limits of Article III, it is said, after finding a contrary and overriding intent in Article I, that Article III dis rict courts in the several states can also be vested with jurisdiction springing from Article I. The only express holding which conceivably could lend comfort to this doctrine of dual jurisdiction in this Court's conclusion in O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U.S. 516 , that certain courts of the District of Columbia theretofore deemed legislative courts created under Article I,7 owe their jurisdiction to Article I and [337 U.S. 582 , 609] Article III. With the merits of the O'Donoghue decision in holding that Article III barred salary reductions for judges of the courts in question, we are not presently concerned. Suffice it to point out that the express language of the O'Donoghue decision negatives the view that federal courts in the several states share this hybrid heritage:
The limits of the O'Donoghue decision are only underscored by the dissenting view of Chief Justice Hughes and Justices Van Devanter and Cardozo that all District of Columbia courts are solely the creatures of Article I:
Comfort is sought to be drawn, however, from this Court's rationale in Williams v. United States, 289 U.S. 553 , which, in sanctioning salary reductions for judges of the Court of Claims, held that that court did not derive its jurisdiction from Article III. That conclusion stemmed in part from the proposition that suits against the United States are not 'Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party,' within the meaning of Article III, 2. Hence, it is said, the permissible inference is that the long-established concurrent jurisdiction of district courts over claims against the United States [337 U.S. 582 , 610] is likewise not derived from Article III. 9 We need not today determine the nature of district court jurisdiction of suits against the United States. Suffice it to say that, if such suits are not 'Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party,' they are presumptively within the purview of the federal-question jurisdiction to which Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER'S opinion directs our attention-the Article III, 2 grant of power over 'Cases * * * arising under * * * the Laws of the United States.' This is, at least, the conventional view of district court jurisdiction under the Tucker Act. 2 Moore, Federal Practice (2d ed., 1948) 1633.
But, in any event, to rely on Williams as dispositive of the present case is to rely on a bending reed: Williams and O'Donoghue were companion cases, argued together and decided together; and the opinions were written by the same Justice. Accordingly, what was said in one must be read in the light of what was said in the other. O'Donoghue, as has been observed, expre sly rejected the proposition today announced-that Congress can vest in constitutional courts outside the District of Columbia jurisdiction derived from the District clause of Article I.
But O'Donoghue went further, and in so doing undermined any implication in Williams that Article III courts outside the District could be vested with any form of non-Article III jurisdiction, when it pointed out that no courts of the District of Columbia could be granted 'administrative and other jurisdiction,' if, 'in creating and defining the jurisdiction of the courts of the District, Congress were limited to article 3, as it is in dealing with the other federal courts * * *.' 289 U. S. at page 546, 53 S.Ct. at page 748. Moreover, the Justices who dissented from the O'Donoghue rationale of dual jurisdiction expressed no disagreement with the Williams opinion. In these circumstances, cer- [337 U.S. 582 , 611] tainly no more strength can be drawn from the language of a case upholding salary reductions for one group of judges than from the holding in a case striking down salary reductions for another group of judges.
Nor is there merit in the view that the bankruptcy jurisdiction of district courts does not stem from Article III. Of course it is true that Article I is the source of congressional power over bankruptcy, as it is the source of congressional power over interstate commerce, taxation, the coining of money, and other powers confided by the states to the exclusive exercise of the national legislature. But, as Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER'S opinion makes clear, federal court adjudication of disputes arising pursuant to bankruptcy and other legislation is conventional federal- question jurisdiction. And no case cited in any of today's opinions remotely suggests the contrary.
Furthermore, no case cited supports the view that jurisdiction over a suit to collect estate assets under 23, sub. b of the Bankruptcy Act, brought by the trustee in a district court with the 'consent' of the defendant, is a departure from the general rule and is derived from Article I alone. To be sure, although this Court indicated a contrary view in the early case of Lovell v. Isidore Newman & Son, 227 U.S. 412, 426 , 380, Chief Justice Hughes' opinion in Schumacher v. Beeler, 293 U.S. 367 , made it perfectly clear that district courts can, with the consent of the proposed defendant, entertain trustee suits under 23 sub. b which the bankrupt, but for the Bankruptcy Act, could not have prosecuted in a federal court absent diversity or some independent federal question 'arising under * * * the Laws of the United States.' The opinion stated:
Chief Justice Hughes' opinion does not intimate that this 'consent jurisdiction' arises solely from Article I. Quite the contrary, the opinion by Judge Denison outlining the 'view' which the Chief Justice described as 'the correct one' expressly stated that such suits are a segment of the district court's federal-question jurisdiction:
There seems no reason therefore to suppose that this Court, in holding 'correct' the view that district courts have jurisdiction over a trustee suit which could not have been brought by the bankrupt, rejected the explicit Article III basis of that jurisdiction.
And neither reliance on Gully v. First National Bank, 299 U.S. 109 ; People of Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476 , and related cases, nor the suggestion that 'a suit arises under the law that creates the cause of action,' American Well Works Co. v. Layne & Bowler Co., 586, 241 U.S. 257, 260 , compels the conclusion that Congress could not and did not classify 23, sub. b suits to collect estate assets as federal- question cases arising under the Bankruptcy Act. As this Court has had occasion to observe, a "cause of action' may mean one thing for one purpose and something different for another.' United States v. Memphis Cotton Oil Co., 288 U.S. 62, 67 -68, 280; and see Gully v. First National Bank, supra, 299 U.S. at page 117, 57 S.Ct. at pages 99, 100. Similarly, as students of federal jurisdiction have taken pains to point out, the 'substantial identity of the words' in the constitutional and statutory grants of federal-question jurisdiction, 'does not, of course, require, on that score alone, an identical interpretation.' Shulman and Jaegerman, Some Jurisdictional Limitations on Federal Procedure, 45 Yale L.J. 393, 405, n. 47 (1936). Confusion of the two is a natural, but not an insurmountable, hazard. The Gully and Puerto Rico cases were concerned with the general statutory grant to district courts of jurisdiction over federal questions; they were not concerned with the constitutional grant of jurisdiction, nor with the specific [337 U.S. 582 , 614] statutory grant of jurisdiction found in the Bankruptcy Act and approved in Schumacher v. Beeler, supra.
It has never heretofore been doubted that the constitutional grant of power is broader than the general federal-question jurisdiction which Congress has from time to time thought to confer on district courts by statute. In one of the federal land-grant cases relied on in Mr. Justice JACKSON'S opinion, this Court had occasion to make this distinction clear:
Indeed, were we to adopt the view that the Gully rule is a test applicable to the constitutional phrase, we would effectively repudiate Chief Justice Marshall's conclusion in Osborn v. Bank of the United States, 9 Wheat. 738, that Congress can allow a federally chartered corporation to bring all its litigation into federal courts [337 U.S. 582 , 615] for the reason that, solely by virtue of the corporation's federal origin, all suits to which the corporation is a party are suits 'arising under * * * the Laws of the United States' within the meaning of Article III. The rule of the Bank of the United States case, reiterated in The Pacific Railroad Removal Cases, (Union Pacific R. Co. v. Myers) 115 U.S. 1 ; Matter of Dunn, 212 U.S. 374 ; American Bank & Trust Co. v. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 256 U.S. 350, 25 A.L.R. 971; Sowell v. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Tex., 268 U.S. 449 ; and Federal Intermediate Credit Bank of Columbia, S.C. v. Mitchell, 277 U.S. 213 , has been limited by statute but never by subsequent constitutional construction. The survival of the rule was acknowledged by Mr. Justice Stone in People of Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co ., supra, 288 U.S. at page 485, 53 S.Ct. at page 450, and by Mr. Justice Cardozo in Gully v. First National Bank, supra, 299 U.S. at page 114, 57 S.Ct. at page 98.
In short, Congress has at no time conferred on federal district courts original jurisdiction over all federal questions, preferring to leave trial of many and perhaps most such questions to state adjudication, subject to the ultimate review of this Court. But exceptions to the congressional policy of limitation there have been, and one of these is the trustee suit under 23, sub. b. 2 Moore, Federal Practice, 2d ed., 1948, 1633.
Thus I see no warrant for gymnastic expansion of the jurisdiction of federal courts outside the District. At least as to these latter courts sitting in the states, I have thought it plain that Article III described and defined their 'judicial Power,' and that where 'power proposed to be conferred * * * was not judicial power within the meaning of the Constitution * * * (it) was, therefore, unconstitutional, and could not lawfully be exercised by the courts.'10 [337 U.S. 582 , 616] If Article III were no longer to serve as the criterion of district court jurisdiction, I should be at a loss to understand what tasks, within the constitutional competence of Congress, might not be assigned to district courts. At all events, intimations that district courts could only undertake the determination of 'justiciable' controversies seem inappropriate, since the very clause of Article I today relied on has long been regarded as the source of the 'legislative,' Keller v. Potmac Electric Power Co., 261 U.S. 428 , and 'administrative,' Postum Cereal Co. v. California Fig Nut Co., 272 U.S. 693 , powers of the courts of the District of Columbia. Moreover, the suggestion that the Constitutional Convention recognized a constructive limitation of federal jurisdictio to 'cases of a Judiciary nature,' II Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention 430, merely lays bare the ultimate fallacy underlying rejection of the boundaries of Article III. For the constructive limitation referred to in the Convention debates is a limitation imposed by Article III, and the opinion of Mr. Justice JACKSON by hypothesis denies that Article III expresses the full measure of power which can be delegated to federal district courts. If district courts are-as I agree they are-confined to 'cases of a Judiciary nature,' then too they are confined to cases 'between citizens of different States,' except insofar as other Article III provisions expand the potential grant of jurisdiction. For-to borrow the words of the O'Donoghue dissent-the limitations of Article III, 'if considered to be applicable, (would not) be susceptible of division so that some might be deemed obligatory and others might be ignored.' 289 U.S. at page 552, 53 S.Ct. at page 751.
In view of the rationale adopted by Mr. Justice JACKSON'S opinion, I do not understand the necessity for its examination of the limits of the diversity clause of Article III. That opinion has, however, made clear the view that the diversity clause excludes citizens of the [337 U.S. 582 , 617] District of Columbia, although where that view may now be applied it does not point out. If I concurred in that conception of the diversity clause I would vote to affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
However, nothing but naked precedent, the great age of the Hepburn ruling, and the prestige of Marshall's name, supports such a result. It is doubtful whether anyone could be found who now would write into the Constitution such an unjust and discriminatory exclusion of District citizens from the federal courts. All of the reasons of justice, convenience, and practicality which have been set forth for allowing District citizens a furtive access to federal courts, point to the conclusion that they should enter freely and fully as other citizens and even aliens do.
Precedent of course is not lightly to be disregarded, even in the greater fluidity of decision which the process of constitutional adjudication concededly affords. 11 And [337 U.S. 582 , 618] Marshall's sponsorship in such matters always is weighty. But when long experience has disclosed the fallacy of a ruling, time has shown its injustice, and nothing remains but a technicality the only effect of which is to perpetuate inequity, hardship and wrong, those are the circumstances which this Court repeatedly has said call for reexamination of prior decisions. If those conditions are fulfilled in any case, they are in this one.
The Hepburn decision was made before time, through later decisions here, had destroyed its basic premise and at the beginning of Marshall's judicial career, when he had hardly started upon his great work of expounding the Constitution. The very brevity of the opinion and its groundings, especially in their ambiguity, show that the master hand which later made his work immortal faltered. 12 [337 U.S. 582 , 619] The sole reason Marshall assigned for the decision was 'a conviction that the members of the American confederacy only are the states contemplated in the constitution,' a conviction resulting as he said from an examination of the use of that word in the charter to determine 'whether Columbia is a state in the sense of that instrument.' 2 Cranch 445, at page 452. 'When the same term which has been used plainly in this limited sense (as designating a member of the union) in the articles respecting the legislative and executive departments, is also employed in that which respects the judicial department, it must be understood as retaining the sense originally given to it.' Ibid.
This narrow and literal reading was grounded exclusively on three constitutional provisions: the requirements that members of the House of Representatives be chosen by the people of the several states; that the Senate shall be composed of two Senators from each state; and that each state 'shall appoint, for the election of the executive,' the specified number of electors; all, be it noted, provisions relating to the organization and structure of the political departments of the government, not to the civil rights of citizens as such. Put to one side were other provisions advanced in argument as showing 'that the term state is sometimes used in its more enlarged sense' on the ground that 'they do not prove what was to be shown by them.' Ibid. But cf. 2 Cranch 445, 446-448, 450.
Whether or not this answer was adequate at the time,13 [337 U.S. 582 , 620] our Constitution today would be very different from what it is if such a narrow and literal construction of each of its terms had been transmuted into an inflexible rule of constitutional interpretation. It is to be remembered, as bearing on the very issue before us, that the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of 'an impartial jury of the State * * * wherein the crime shall have been committed' extends to criminal prosecutions in the Nation's capital. 14 Similarly, the word 'Citizens' has a broader [337 U.S. 582 , 621] meaning in Article III, 2, where it now includes corporations,15 than it has in the privileges and immunities clause of Article IV, 2,16 or in the like clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 17 Instances might, but need not, be multiplied.
In construing the diversity clause we are faced with the apparent fact that the Framers gave no deliberate consideration one way or another to the diversity litigation of citizens of the District of Columbia. And indeed, since the District was not in existence when the [337 U.S. 582 , 622] Constitution was drafted, it seems in no way surprising that the Framers, after conferring on Congress' plenary power over the future federal capital, made no express provision for litigating outside the boundaries of a hypothetical city conjectured controversies between unborn citizens and their unknown neighbors. Under these circumstances I cannot accept the proposition that absence of affirmative inclusion is, here, tantamount to deliberate exclusion.
If exclusion of District citizens is not compelled by the language of the diversity clause, it likewise cannot be spelled out by inference from the historic purposes of that clause. We have, needless to say, no concern with the merits of diversity jurisdiction;18 nor need we resolve scholarly dispute over the substantiality of those local prejudices which, when the Constitution was drafted, the grant of diversity jurisdiction was designed to nullify. 19 Our only duty is to determine the scope of the jurisdictional grant, and we must bow to congressional determination of whether federal adjudication of local issues does more good than harm. But, in resolving the imme- [337 U.S. 582 , 623] diate issue, we should not blink the fact that, whatever the need for federal jurisdiction over suits between litigant citizens of the several states, the same need equally compels the safeguards of federal trial for suits brought by citizens of the District of Columbia against citizens of the several states. Conversely, if we assume that today's ruling tacitly validates suits brought by state citizens against citizens of the District of Columbia, it would seem the plaintiff citizen of a state is as deserving of a federal forum when suing a District defendant as when suing a defendant in a neighbor state.
Marshall's sole premise of decision in the Hepburn case has failed, under the stress of time and later decision, as a test of constitutional construction. Key words like 'state,' 'citizen,' and 'person' do not always and invariably mean the same thing. 20 His literal application disregarded any possible distinction between the purely political clauses and those affecting civil rights of citizens, a distinction later to receive recognition.
Moreover, Marshall himself recognized the incongruity of the decision: 'It is true that as citizens of the United States, and of that particular district which is subject to the jurisdiction of congress, it is extraordinary that the courts of the United States, which are open to aliens, and to the citizens of every state in the union, should be closed upon them.' But, he added, 'this is a subject for legislative, not for judicial consideration.' 2 Cranch, 445, at page 452.
With all this we may well agree, with one reservation. In spite of subsequent contrary interpretation and Marshall's own identification of the statutory word 'state' with the same word in the Constitution, we cannot be unreservedly sure that the last-quoted sentence referred to the process of constitutional amendment rather than [337 U.S. 582 , 624] congressional reconsideration. If the former had been the intent, it seems likely it would have been stated in words not so characteristic of the latter process. The Court was construing the statute, 21 which made no explicit inclusion of citizens of the District. Whether, if it had done so, the Court's ruling would have been the same or, if a later act had sought to include District citizens, it would have been held unconstitutional, we can only speculate.
But I do not rest on this ambiguity, more especially in view of the later decisions clearly accepting the Hepburn decision as one of constitutional import. On the other hand, the later and general repudiation of the decision's narrow and literal rule for construing the Constitution, in which Marshall's own part was not small, has cut from beneath the Hepburn case its only grounding and with it, in my judgment, the anomaly in result which the ruling always has been. It is perhaps unnecessary to go so far in criticizing the decision as was done by a judge who long afterwards bowed to it. 22 But the time has come [337 U.S. 582 , 625] when the hope he expressed for removing this highly unjust discrimination from a group of our citizens larger than the population of several states of the Union should be realized.
Pragmatically stated, perhaps, the problem is not of earth-shaking proportions. For, by present hypothesis, federal court disposition of diversity suits must be in accord with local law in all matters of substance. But symbolically the matter is of very considerable importance. Reasonable men may differ perhaps over whether or, more appropriately, to what extent citizens of the District should have political status and equality with their fellow citizens. But with reference to their civil rights, especially in such a matter as equal access to the federal courts, none now can be found to defend discrimination against them save strictly on the ground of precedent.
I cannot believe that the Framers intended to impose so purposeless and indefensible a discrimination, although they may have been guilty of understandable oversight in not providing explicitly against it. Despite its great age and subsequent acceptance, I think the Hepburn decision was ill-considered and wrongly decided. Nothing hangs on it now except the continuance or removal of a gross and wholly anomalous inequality applied against a substantial group of American citizens, not in relation to their substantive rights, but in respect to the forums available for their determination. This Court has not [337 U.S. 582 , 626] hesitated to override even long-standing decisions when much more by way of substantial change was involved and the action taken was much less clearly justified than in this case, a most pertinent instance being Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, supra.
That course should be followed here. It should be followed directly, not deviously. Although I agree with the Court's judgment, I think it overrules the Hepburn decision in all practical effect. With that I am in accord. But I am not in accord with the proposed extension of 'legislative' jurisdiction under Article I for the first time to the federal district courts outside the District of Columbia organized pursuant to Article III, and the consequent impairment of the latter Article's limitations upon judicial power; and I would dissent from such a holding even more strongly than I would from a decision today reaffirming the Hepburn ruling. That extension, in my opinion, would be the most important part of today's decision, were it accepted by a majority of the Court. It is a dangerous doctrine which would return to plague both the district courts and ourselves in the future, to what extent it is impossible to say. The O'Donoghue and Williams decisions would then take on an importance they have never before had and were never considered likely to attain.
Mr. Chief Justice VINSON, with whom Mr. Justice DOUGLAS joins, dissenting.
While I agree with the views expressed by Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER and Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE which relate to the power of Congress under Art. I of the Constitution to vest federal district courts with jurisdiction over suits between citizens of States and the District of Columbia, and with the views of Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER and Mr. Justice JACKSON as to the proper interpretation of the word 'States' in the diversity clause of Art. III, I [337 U.S. 582 , 627] am constrained to state my views individually because of the importance of these questions to the administration of the federal court system.
The question whether Congress has the power to extend the diversity jurisdiction of the federal district courts to citizens of the District of Columbia by virtue of its authority over the District under Art. I of the Constitution depends, in turn, upon whether the enumeration in Art. III of the cases to which the judicial power of the United States shall extend defines the outer limits of that power or is merely a listing of the types of jurisdiction with which Congress may invest federal courts without invoking any of the specific powers granted that body by other Articles of the Constitution. It has long been settled that inferior federal courts receive no powers directly from the Constitution but only such authority as is vested in them by the Congress. Turner v. Bank of North America, 1799, 4 Dall. 8; McIntire v. Wood, 1813, 7 Cranch 504; Kendall v. United States, ex rel. Stokes, 1838, 12 Pet. 524; Cary v. Curtis, 1845, 3 How. 236.1 Since, therefore, there is no minimum of power prescribed for the inferior federal courts, and Congress need not have established any such courts, Lockerty v. Phillips, 1943, 319 U.S. 182, 187 , 1022, the question is whether the enumeration of cases in Art. III, 2 prescribes a maximum of power or performs only the very limited office mentioned above.