WEBSTER COAL & COKE CO. v. CASSATT(1907)
The Webster coal & Coke Company commenced an action at law in the circuit court of the United States for the eastern district of Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, defendant, to recover damages for its alleged violation of the interstate commerce act of February 4, 1887 [24 Stat. at L. 379, chap. 104, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3154], by discriminating against plaintiff in the allowance of freight rates on coal and coke. The defendant pleaded not guilty. [207 U.S. 181, 182] In the opinion below it is stated:
To review this order, Cassatt and the other officers and agents of the Pennsylvania company sued out, as individuals, a writ of error from the circuit court of appeals for the third circuit, assigning as error (1) that the circuit court erred in entering the order requiring plaintiffs in error to submit to the inspection of the plaintiff below and its counsel, prior to the trial of the cause, the books, records, and papers referred to therein; and (2) requiring the production at the trial of said books, records, and papers. The case was heard, together with two similar cases, one of which was entitled Pennsylvania Coal & Coke Co. v. Cassatt, and is numbered 284 on the present docket. [ 207 U.S. 187 , 52 L. ed. --, 28 Sup. Ct. Rep. 110.]
The circuit court of appeals gave an opinion in one case applicable to the three, and reversed the judgments of the circuit court with costs. 10 L.R.A.(N.S.) 99, 150 Fed. 32, 48. That court held that the order in question was a 'final decision' within in [207 U.S. 181, 184] 6 of the judiciary act of March 3, 1891 [26 Stat. at L. 828, chap. 517, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 549]; that the proceeding which resulted in the order was independent of and collateral to the main action, and the order therefore reviewable on a writ of error; that the corporation's officers and agents were not 'parties' within Revised Statutes, 724; that that section did not authorize an order requiring a party to produce books and papers before trial, but, if such relief was desired, it must be obtained by a bill of discovery. The present cause was then brought to this court on certiorari, and is numbered 283 on its docket. It was advanced for hearing and heard October 28, 29, together with No. 284, also brought up on certiorari.
Messrs. John W. Grigges, Benjamin S. Harmon, David L. Krebs, and George S. Graham for petitioner.
[207 U.S. 181, 185] Messrs. John G. Johnson and Francis I. Gowen for respondents.
Mr. Chief Justice Fuller delivered the opinion of the court:
The Pennsylvania Railroad Company did not except to the order, nor attempt to prosecute a writ of error therefrom, if that were possible; the plaintiffs in error, who were officers of the company, excepted and carried the case up on this writ of error. They were not parties to the case between the coal company and the railroad company, had no property in the books and papers referred to, were mere custodians as officers, and any rights of theirs were not made to appear to be involved in the disclosures sought. The order as to them was purely interlocutory, not imposing penalty or liability, and not finally disposing of an independent proceeding.
What Mr. Justice Bradley said in Williams v. Morgan, 111 U.S. 684, 698 , 28 S. L. ed. 559, 564, 4 Sup. Ct. Rep. 638, in holding a decree on intervention appealable, and citing many cases, was that the order appealed from there 'was final in its nature, and was made in a matter distinct from the general subject of litigation,-a matter by itself, which affected only the parties to the particular controversy, and those whom they represented.'
This order affected the plaintiff and defendant in the case itself, and not respondents as individuals at all, and, if the court had power to punish disobedience or enforce compliance, [207 U.S. 181, 187] then the order prior to such action on the part of the court was clearly interlocutory in the suit. Alexander v. United States, 210 U.S. 117 , 50 L. ed. 686, 26 Sup. Ct. Rep. 356. If the provision of 724 in respect of disobedience of such an order was exclusive, then, of course, respondents were in no way aggrieved. Doyle v. London Guarantee & Acci. Co. 204 U.S. 599 , 51 L. ed. 641, 27 Sup. Ct. Rep. 313.
Whether the order to produce was valid. and whether it warranted judgment by default against the defendant company, were matters in which plaintiffs in error had no concern. There was here no attachment for contempt, no judgment on default, and no independent and collateral proceeding, the order disposing of which could be considered as a final decree.
Judgment reversed and cause remanded with a direction to dismiss the writ of error.