118 US 385 Francis v. Flinn

118 U.S. 385

6 S.Ct. 1148

30 L.Ed. 165

FRANCIS and others

Filed May 10, 1886.

This is a suit in equity to restrain the defendants from doing certain things charged against them, intended to injure the plaintiff, and destroy his property and business. The bill alleges that he is a citizen of Florida, and brings the bill against Richard Francis, individually and as agent for others, and W. T. Levine and 37 others, who are named, and who are citizens of Louisiana. It sets forth that he is one-eighth owner of the steam pilot-boat Mary Lee, a decked vessel of over 50 tons burden; that his interest exceeds the value of $5,000; that she was built, and is manned and equipped, and in all respects fitted, for the purposes of a pilot-boat, and for some months had been, and is now, used as a pilot-boat at South Pass, known as the jetties, at one of the mouths of the Mississippi river; that by act of congress of June 1, 1874, the pass or channel has been, since the beginning of the construction of the jetties, under control of the secretary of war; that the government has caused the obstructions formerly existing in the channel, known as the bar, to be removed; that the pass is subject to no other regulations than those prescribed by the secretary; that the plaintiff in his business of pilot has, in all respects, conformed to them; that the captain and other officers of his vessel are duly commissioned under the laws of the United States; that certain persons named Pliny Cox, George A. Falconi, and Hiram Follett are on board as branch pilots, and they act as pilots on vessels inward and outward bound to and from the sea through the South Pass, and, as part owners of the pilot-boat, they are licensed under the laws of the United States as branch pilots for the port of New Orleans; and that, as such, they are entitled to pilot vessels from the sea to the Mississippi river, and from the river to the sea. The bill further alleges that, under the laws of the United States relating to the channel known as the jetties, and to the vessels and steamers of the character of the Mary Lee, the plaintiff, as owner, has a right to have the captain, and the pilots Cox, Falconi, and Follett, protected in the business of piloting through the channel to and from the sea, and is entitled to a decree recognizing his right to render services with his pilot-boat to all vessels to and from the sea, through the said pass and channel, whenever any one of such branch pilots employed by him shall be on board of such vessel, in ward and outward bound, drawing more than 12 feet of water; and that any law of Louisiana, or any rules or regulations made by the defendants in contravention of the laws of congress and the regulations of the secretary of war, are null and void. The bill also alleges that the defendants have combined and confederated together for the purpose of destroying the business and property of the plaintiff, by publications in the newspapers, and by divers and sundry suits, and by injunctions, and 'in various other and divers ways,' and have instituted suit against J. W. Black, George A. Shelton, Hiram Follett, Pliny Cox, and George A. Follett, all of whom are part owners of the Mary Lee, and three of whom are branch pilots for the port of New Orleans.

J. R. Beckwith, for appellants.

Jos. P. Hornor, for appellee.


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The bill does not state what the publications were of which the plaintiff complains, or what the divers suits instigated by the defendants were, other than those mentioned, in which charges were made as to towing vessels through the pass without pilots, and as to certain persons not being branch pilots, or contracting not to serve as such. Nor does it state any of the other 'various and diverse ways' in which he is injured by the defendants. The whole gist of the complaint is that the defendants do not treat the plaintiff as having a right to use his vessel as a pilot-boat, and have publicly so stated, and that some of the parties mentioned have been subjected to suits for their acts in piloting. But if this be so, the plaintiff has a full remedy for his alleged wrongs in the courts of law. They furnish no ground for the interposition of a court of equity. If the plaintiff has a right to pilot vessels with his boat through the pass, and is wrongfully interfered with by the defendants or others, he can prosecute them for the wrong. If his vessel is arrested in its passage, without lawful warrant, he can bring the defendants before the courts to answer for their conduct. If his pilots are duly licensed, and they are hindered or prevented from the exercise of their business, both he and they have the same means of redress which are afforded to every citizen whose rights are invaded and obstructed. If the publications in the newspapers are false and injurious, he can prosecute the publishers for libel. If a court of equity could interfere and use its remedy of injunction in such cases, it would draw to itself the greater part of the litigation properly belonging to courts of law.


We think the court below should have sustained the demurrer of the defendants for want of equity in the bill. The decree must therefore be reversed, and the cause remanded, with instructions to dismiss the bill; and it is so ordered.