Jurisdiction Confined to Civil Cases.

In Cohens v. Virginia,1082 there is a dictum to the effect that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court does not include suits between a state and its own citizens. Long afterwards, the Supreme Court dismissed an action for want of jurisdiction because the record did not show that the corporation against which the suit was brought was chartered in another state.1083 Subsequently, the Court has ruled that it will not entertain an action by a state to which its citizens are either parties of record or would have to be joined because of the effect of a judgment upon them.1084 In his dictum in Cohens v. Virginia, Chief Justice Marshall also indicated that perhaps no jurisdiction existed over suits by states to enforce their penal laws.1085 Sixty-seven years later, the Court wrote this dictum into law in Wisconsin v. Pelican Ins. Co.1086 Wisconsin sued a Louisiana corporation to recover a judgment rendered in its favor by one of its own courts. Relying partly on the rule of international law that the courts of no country execute the penal laws of another, partly upon the 13th section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which vested the Supreme Court with exclusive jurisdiction of controversies of a civil nature where a state is a party, and partly on Justice Iredell’s dissent in Chisholm v. Georgia,1087 where he confined the term “controversies” to civil suits, Justice Gray ruled for the Court that for purposes of original jurisdiction, “controversies between a State and citizens of another State” are confined to civil suits.1088


19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 264, 398–99 (1821). back
Pennsylvania v. Quicksilver Mining Co., 77 U.S. (10 Wall.) 553 (1871). back
California v. Southern Pacific Co., 157 U.S. 229 (1895); Minnesota v. Northern Securities Co., 184 U.S. 199 (1902). back
19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) at 398–99. back
127 U.S. 265 (1888). back
2 U.S. (2 Dall.) 419, 431–32 (1793). back
127 U.S. at 289–300. back