Narrow Construction of the Jurisdiction.

As in cases of di- versity jurisdiction, suits brought to the federal courts under this category must clearly state in the record the nature of the parties. As early as 1809, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal court could not take jurisdiction of a cause where the defendants were described in the record as “late of the district of Maryland,” but were not designated as citizens of Maryland, and plaintiffs were described as aliens and subjects of the United Kingdom.1198 The meticulous care manifested in this case appeared twenty years later when the Court narrowly construed § 11 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, vesting the federal courts with jurisdiction when an alien was a party, in order to keep it within the limits of this clause. The judicial power was further held not to extend to private suits in which an alien is a party, unless a citizen is the adverse party.1199 This interpretation was extended in 1870 by a holding that if there is more than one plaintiff or defendant, each plaintiff or defendant must be competent to sue or liable to suit.1200 These rules, however, do not preclude a suit between citizens of the same state if the plaintiffs are merely nominal parties and are suing on behalf of an alien.1201

Footnotes

1198
Hodgson & Thompson v. Bowerbank, 9 U.S. (5 Cr.) 303 (1809). [Back to text]
1199
Jackson v. Twentyman, 27 U.S. (2 Pet.) 136 (1829); Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354 (1959). [Back to text]
1200
Coal Co. v. Blatchford, 78 U.S. (11 Wall.) 172 (1871). See, however, Lacassagne v. Chapuis, 144 U.S. 119 (1892), which held that a lower federal court had jurisdiction over a proceeding to impeach its former decree, although the parties were new and were both aliens. [Back to text]
1201
Browne v. Strode, 9 U.S. (5 Cr.) 303 (1809). [Back to text]