137 US 48 Texas Ry Co v. Southern Pac Ry Co

137 U.S. 48

11 S.Ct. 10

34 L.Ed. 614


November 3, 1890.

[Statement of Case from pages 48-53 intentionally omitted]

W. W. Howe and John F. Dillon, for plaintiff in error.

H. J. Leovy and J. P. Paxton Blair, for defendant in error.

Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts as above, delivered the opinion of the court.


The decision of the supreme court of Louisiana was not against the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States, nor in favor of the validity of a statute of, or an anthority exercised under, any state, drawn in question on the ground of repugnancy to the constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States; and, in order to maintain jurisdiction because of the denial by the state court of any title, right, privilege, or immunity claimed under the constitution or any treaty or statute of the United States, it must appear on the record that such title, right, privilege, or immunity was 'specially set up or claimed' at the proper time and in the proper way. It is contended that the plaintiff company had the right, under the acts of congress by which it was incorporated, to make the contract in question, and hence that the decision that such contract was illegal and contrary to public policy constituted a denial of a right or privilege conferred by a statute of the United States; and also that, as the agreement related to earnings from interstate as well as from intrastate traffic, such decision was an interference with the freedom of interstate commerce, within the prohibition of the commerce clause of the constitution of the United States. But it does not appear that either of these propositions was presented to the trial court in any way, or advanced in the supreme court, until urged in the petition for a rehearing. The title, right, privilege, or immunity was not specially set up or claimed at the proper time and in the proper way. It is true that, under the law of Louisiana, a judgment of the supreme court does not become final until after six judicial days from the rendering of the judgment have elapsed, within which time a dissatisfied party may apply for a new hearing of the cause; but it does not follow that new grounds for decision will be allowed to be presented, or will be considered on such application, and the general rule is otherwise. Code Prac. La. arts. 538, 539, 547, 548, 911, 912; Rightor v. Phelps, 1 Rob. (La.) 330; Stark v. Burke, 9 La. Ann. 344; Caldwell v. Insurance Co., 19 La. 48; Hanson v. City Council, 18 La. 309. And, while the court is required to state the reasons of its judgments, it is not obliged to give reasons for refusing a new hearing. Code Prac. La. arts. 909, 914. We are of opinion that in Louisiana, as elsewhere, a title, right, privilege, or immunity is not properly clamed, under the act of congress, when suggested for the first time in a petition for a rehearing, after judgment. The case of Stewart v. Kahn, 11 Wall, 493, cited for plaintiff in error, is not to the contrary. The petition referred to there seems to have been simply one for review on appeal, and not a petition filed after the case had been decided by the supreme court, and the record showed the decision of the federal question by both tribunals. In the case at bar, it does not appear in direct terms or by necessary intendment that these points were brought to the attention of either of the courts prior to the entry of the judgment of affirmance. If, therefore, the maintenance of this writ of error depended upon the questions thus raised, the motion to dismiss would be sustained; but it is insisted in addition that the state courts did not give due effect to the decrees of the courts of New Mexico and Arizona and of the state of Texas, and that a title or right claimed under an authority exercised under the United States, as well as under the constitution of the United States, was thereby denied. No certified copies of the decrees referred to were annexed to the petition, but there was attached an uncertified copy of what purported to have been a decree in the district court of New Mexico between plaintiff and sundry of the railroad companies named in the agreement, defendants. Upon the hearing, plaintiff did not present certified copies of the decrees, and insist upon rulings as to their effect; nor did it specifically aver in its petition that the agreement for the division of earnings had been adjudged to be valid and binding upon the parties by those decrees. The question of the illegality of the contract seems to have been submitted upon the merits, and was so decided, so that there is ground for the argument that the right had not been properly set up or claimed in compliance with the statutory requirement. It is earnestly urged, however, that the exceptions were in the nature of demurrers, and that, being treated as such, the petition, taken in connection with Exhibit C, sufficiently presented the question. And the supreme court in its opinion, set up as part of the record, and to be found reported in 41 La. Ann. 970, 6 South. Rep. 888, said: 'A point which overshadows the discussion of all three of the exceptions is made by plaintiff's counsel, who contends that, the agreement between the parties having been sanctioned by a decree of the courts in which the litigation adjusted between the railroad companies was pending, it has now acquired the force and effect of the thing adjudged, and hence it cannot be attacked collaterally,'—and it proceeded to consider and dispose of that contention. We shall overrule the motion to dismiss, but, there having been color for it, will pass upon the motion to affirm.


In reference to the decrees, the supreme court of Louisiana held that the rule invoked applied only to matters of pre-existing differences settled and compromised, and not to agreements or contracts for future action and execution; that the subject-matter of article 6 of the agreement was not a subject of contention between the parties, either as a difference or in the shape of any pending litigation, at the time the agreement was entered into; that, in fact, it had no existence prior to the contract itself, and had no reference to the past, but its whole operation or effect was intended exclusively for the future; that the decree carefully enumerated all the litigious matters which were in suit between the several railway companies, parties to the litigation then pending; and that no other matters in the agreement were affected by the judgment; and Mr. Justice POCH E, speaking for the court, called attention, as clearing away any doubt, to that part of the decrees which declared that they were made to carry out the provisions in this behalf, and did not affect or otherwise interfere with the provisions of the agreement. It was concluded that the stipulations of article 6 had not the force and effect of the thing adjudged, and were lawfully liable to attack in the mode and manner adopted by the defendant. It was added that this conclusion was mainly predicated upon the view that the agreement in its entirety did not evidence a single and connected contract, but that the instrument was used as a means to facilitate the execution by two representatives of numerous obligors and distinct obligees of a series of varied and distinct contracts. By this decision was the validity or due effect of either of these decrees disallowed by the state court? We do not think so. The decrees were entered by consent, and in accordance with the agreement, the courts merely exercising an administrative function in recording what had been agreed to between the parties; and it was open to the supreme court of Louisiana to determine, upon general principles of law, that the validity of article 6 was not in controversy or passed upon in the causes in which the decree was rendered. In doing so, that court did not refuse to give due effect to the final judgment of a court of the United States or of another state. The judgment is affirmed.