OREGON R & NAV CO v. BALFOUR(1900)
Messrs. W. W. Cotton and A. B. Browne for appellants.
Messrs. C. E. S. Wood and George H. Williams for appellees.
Mr. Chief Justice Fuller delivered the opinion of the court:
These were petitions for a limitation of liability of shipowners, filed in the district court of the United States for the district of Oregon, sitting in admiralty, which proceeded to decree in that court. From this decree appeals were prosecuted to the United States circuit court of appeals for the ninth circuit and the decree affirmed. 61 U. S. App. 150, 90 Fed. Rep. 295, 33 C. C. A. 57. From that decree appeals were taken to this court, which appellees now move to dismiss.
By the 6th section of the judiciary act of March 3, 1891, it is provided that the judgments or decrees of the circuit courts of appeals in admiralty cases shall be final; and no appeal to this court lies therefrom. If, then, proceedings under the act [179 U.S. 55, 56] of Congress to limit the liability of shipowners, and the rules of this court in that regard, are admiralty cases, it follows that the motions to dismiss must be sustained.
By the 2d section of article 3 of the Constitution, the judicial power extends 'to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction,' the word 'maritime' having been added, out of abundant caution, to preclude a narrow interpretation of the word 'admiralty.'
The jurisdiction to limit the liability of shipowners was conferred upon the district courts by the act of Congress of March 3, 1851 (9 Stat. at L. 635, chap. 43), carried forward into 4282 to 4289 of the Revised Statutes.
It was not until December term, 1871, in the case of the Norwich & N. Y. Transp. Co. v. Wright, 13 Wall. 104, 20 L. ed. 585, that the court was called upon to interpret the act, and to adopt some general rules for the purpose of carrying it into effect, and this was done at that term. 13 Wall. xii., xiii., 20 L. ed. 926, 927; Rules of Practice in Admiralty, 54- 58.
The power of Congress to pass the act of 1851, and the power of this court to prescribe rules regulating proceedings thereunder, were maintained in that case, and were recognized and reaffirmed in many subsequent cases. The Benefactor, 103 U.S. 239 , sub nom. New York & W. S. S. Co. v. Mount, 26 L. ed. 351; The Scotland, 105 U.S. 24 , sub nom. National Steam Nav. Co. v. Dyer, 26 L. ed. 1001; Providence & N. Y. S. S. Co. v. Hill Mfg. Co. 109 U.S. 578 , 27 L. ed. 1038, 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 379, 617; Butler v. Boston & S. S. S. Co. 130 U.S. 527 , 32 L. ed. 1017, 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 612; Re Morrison, 147 U.S. 14 , 34, sub nom. Morrison v. United States Dist. Ct. 37 L. ed. 60, 67, 13 Sup. Ct. Rep. 246. In the latter case the proceeding is styled 'an equitable action,' but not in any sense as inconsistent with the admiralty jurisdiction.
In these cases the provisions of the act and of the rules are fully set forth, explained, and commented on, and need not be repeated. As decisive of the question before us it will be sufficient to give the following extracts from the opinion of the court, delivered by Mr. Justice Bradley, in Providence & N. Y. S. S. Co. v. Hill Mfg. Co.:
Clearly, then, these were admiralty cases; the decrees of the Circuit Court of Appeals were made final by the statute; and the appeals must be dismissed.