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NATIONAL MUTUAL INSURANCE CO. v. TIDEWATER TRANSFER CO.

decided: June 20, 1949.

NATIONAL MUTUAL INSURANCE CO
v.
TIDEWATER TRANSFER CO., INC.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.

Author: Jackson

[ 337 U.S. Page 583]

 MR. JUSTICE JACKSON announced the judgment of the Court and an opinion in which MR. JUSTICE BLACK and MR. JUSTICE BURTON join.

This case calls up for review a holding that it is unconstitutional for Congress to open federal courts in the several states to action by a citizen of the District of Columbia against a citizen of one of the states. The petitioner, as plaintiff, commenced in the United States District Court for Maryland an action for a money judgment on a claim arising out of an insurance contract. No cause of action under the laws or Constitution of the United States was pleaded, jurisdiction being predicated only upon an allegation of diverse citizenship. The diversity set forth was that plaintiff is a corporation created by District of Columbia law, while the defendant is a corporation chartered by Virginia, amenable to suit in Maryland by virtue of a license to do business there. The learned District Judge concluded that, while this diversity met jurisdictional requirements under the Act of Congress,*fn1 it did not comply with diversity requirements of the Constitution as to federal jurisdiction, and so dismissed.*fn2 The Court of Appeals, by a divided court, affirmed.*fn3 Of twelve district courts that had considered the question up to the time review in this Court was sought, all except three had held the enabling Act unconstitutional,*fn4 and the two Courts of Appeals which had

[ 337 U.S. Page 584]

     spoken on the subject agreed with that conclusion.*fn5 The controversy obviously was an appropriate one for review here and writ of certiorari issued in the case.*fn6

The history of the controversy begins with that of the Republic. In defining the cases and controversies to which the judicial power of the United States could extend, the Constitution included those "between Citizens of different States."*fn7 In the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress created a system of federal courts of first instance and gave them jurisdiction of suits "between a citizen of the State where the suit is brought, and a citizen of another State."*fn8 In 1804, the Supreme Court, through Chief Justice Marshall, held that a citizen of the District of Columbia was not a citizen of a State within the meaning and intendment of this Act.*fn9 This decision closed federal courts in the states to citizens of the District of Columbia in diversity cases, and for 136 years they remained closed. In 1940 Congress enacted the statute challenged here. It confers on such courts jurisdiction if the action "Is between citizens of different States, or

[ 337 U.S. Page 585]

     citizens of the District of Columbia, the Territory of Hawaii, or Alaska, and any State or Territory."*fn10 The issue here depends upon the validity of this Act, which, in substance, was reenacted by a later Congress*fn11 as part of the Judicial Code.*fn12

Before concentrating on detail, it may be well to place the general issue in a larger perspective. This constitutional issue affects only the mechanics of administering justice in our federation. It does not involve an extension or a denial of any fundamental right or immunity which goes to make up our freedoms. Those rights and freedoms do not include immunity from suit by a citizen of Columbia or exemption from process of the federal courts. Defendant concedes that it can presently be sued in some court of law, if not this one, and it grants that Congress may make it suable at plaintiff's complaint in some, if not this, federal court. Defendant's contention only amounts to this: that it cannot be made to answer this plaintiff in the particular court which Congress has decided is the just and convenient forum.

The considerations which bid us strictly to apply the Constitution to congressional enactments which invade fundamental freedoms or which reach for powers that would substantially disturb the balance between the Union and its component states, are not present here. In mere mechanics of government and administration we

[ 337 U.S. Page 586]

     should, so far as the language of the great Charter fairly will permit, give Congress freedom to adapt its machinery to the needs of changing times. In no case could the admonition of the great Chief Justice be more appropriately heeded -- ". . . we must never forget, that it is a constitution we are expounding."*fn13

Our first inquiry is whether, under the third, or Judiciary, Article of the Constitution,*fn14 extending the judicial power of the United States to cases or controversies "between Citizens of different States," a citizen of the District of Columbia has the standing of a citizen of one of the states of the Union. This is the question which the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall answered in the negative, by way of dicta if not of actual decision. Hepburn & Dundas v. Ellzey, 2 Cranch 445. To be sure, nothing was before that Court except interpretation of a statute*fn15 which conferred jurisdiction substantially in the words of the Constitution with nothing in the text or context to show that Congress intended to regard the District as a state. But Marshall resolved the statutory question by invoking the analogy of the constitutional provisions of the same tenor and reasoned that the District was not a state for purposes of the Constitution and, hence, was not for purposes of the Act. The opinion summarily disposed of arguments to the contrary, including the one repeated here that other provisions of the Constitution indicate that "the term state is sometimes used in its more enlarged sense." Here, as there, "on examining the passages quoted, they do not prove what was to be shown by them." 2 Cranch 445, 453. Among his contemporaries at least, Chief Justice Marshall was not generally censured for undue literalness in interpreting the language

[ 337 U.S. Page 587]

     of the Constitution to deny federal power and he wrote from close personal knowledge of the Founders and the foundation of our constitutional structure. Nor did he underestimate the equitable claims which his decision denied to residents of the District, for he said that "It is true that as citizens of the United States, and of that particular district which is subject to the jurisdiction of congress, it is extraordinary that the courts of the United States, which are open to aliens, and to the citizens of every state in the union, should be closed upon them. -- But this is a subject for legislative not for judicial consideration."*fn16

The latter sentence, to which much importance is attached, is somewhat ambiguous, because constitutional amendment as well as statutory revision is for legislative, not judicial, consideration. But the opinion as a whole leaves no doubt that the Court did not then regard the District as a state for diversity purposes.

To now overrule this early decision of the Court on this point and hold that the District of Columbia is a state would, as that opinion pointed out, give to the word "state" a meaning in the Article which sets up the judicial establishment quite different from that which it carries in those Articles which set up the political departments and in other Articles of the instrument. While the word is one which can contain many meanings, such inconsistency in a single instrument is to be implied only where the context clearly requires it. There is no evidence that the Founders, pressed by more general and immediate anxieties, thought of the special problems of the District of Columbia in connection with the judiciary. This is not strange, for the District was then only a contemplated entity. But, had they thought of it, there is nothing to indicate that it would have been referred to as a state and

[ 337 U.S. Page 588]

     much to indicate that it would have required special provisions to fit its anomalous relationship into the new judicial system, just as it did to fit it into the new political system.

In referring to the "States" in the fateful instrument which amalgamated them into the "United States," the Founders obviously were not speaking of states in the abstract. They referred to those concrete organized societies which were thereby contributing to the federation by delegating some part of their sovereign powers and to those that should later be organized and admitted to the partnership in the method prescribed. They obviously did not contemplate unorganized and dependent spaces as states. The District of Columbia being nonexistent in any form, much less as a state, at the time of the compact, certainly was not taken into the Union of states by it, nor has it since been admitted as a new state is required to be admitted.

We therefore decline to overrule the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall, and we hold that the District of Columbia is not a state within Article III of the Constitution. In other words, cases between citizens of the District and those of the states were not included in the catalogue of controversies over which the Congress could give jurisdiction to the federal courts by virtue of Art. III.

This conclusion does not, however, determine that Congress lacks power under other provisions of the Constitution to enact this legislation. Congress, by the Act in question, sought not to challenge or disagree with the decision of Chief Justice Marshall that the District of Columbia is not a state for such purposes. It was careful to avoid conflict with that decision by basing the new legislation on powers that had not been relied upon by the First Congress in passing the Act of 1789.

The Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives recommended the Act of April 20, 1940, as "a reasonable

[ 337 U.S. Page 589]

     exercise of the constitutional power of Congress to legislate for the District of Columbia and for the Territories."*fn17 This power the Constitution confers in broad terms. By Art. I, Congress is empowered "to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District."*fn18 And of course it was also authorized "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" such powers.*fn19 These provisions were not relevant in Chief Justice Marshall's interpretation of the Act of 1789 because it did not refer in terms to the District but only to states. It is therefore significant that, having decided that District citizens' cases were not brought within federal jurisdiction by Art. III and the statute enacted pursuant to it, the Chief Justice added, as we have seen, that it was extraordinary that the federal courts should be closed to the citizens of "that particular district which is subject to the jurisdiction of congress." Such language clearly refers to Congress' Art. I power of "exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District." And mention of that power seems particularly significant in the context of Marshall's further statement that the matter is a subject for "legislative not for judicial consideration." Even if it be considered speculation to say that this was an expression by the Chief Justice that Congress had the requisite power under Art. I, it would be in the teeth of his language to say that it is a denial of such power. The Congress has acted on the belief that it possesses that power. We believe their conclusion is well founded.

[ 337 U.S. Page 590]

     It is elementary that the exclusive responsibility of Congress for the welfare of the District includes both power and duty to provide its inhabitants and citizens with courts adequate to adjudge not only controversies among themselves but also their claims against, as well as suits brought by, citizens of the various states. It long has been held that Congress may clothe District of Columbia courts not only with the jurisdiction and powers of federal courts in the several states but with such authority as a state may confer on her courts. Kendall v. United States, 12 Pet. 524, 619; Capital Traction Co. v. Hof, 174 U.S. 1; O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U.S. 516. The defendant here does not challenge the power of Congress to assure justice to the citizens of the District by means of federal instrumentalities, or to empower a federal court within the District to run its process to summon defendants here from any part of the country. And no reason has been advanced why a special statutory court for cases of District citizens could not be authorized to proceed elsewhere in the United States to sit, where necessary or proper, to discharge the duties of Congress toward District citizens.

However, it is contended that Congress may not combine this function, under Art. I, with those under Art. III, in district courts of the United States. Two objections are urged to this. One is that no jurisdiction other than specified in Art. III can be imposed on courts that exercise the judicial power of the United States thereunder. The other is that Art. I powers over the District of Columbia must be exercised solely within that geographic area.

Of course there are limits to the nature of duties which Congress may impose on the constitutional courts vested with the federal judicial power. The doctrine of separation of powers is fundamental in our system. It arises,

[ 337 U.S. Page 591]

     however, not from Art. III nor any other single provision of the Constitution, but because "behind the words of the constitutional provisions are postulates which limit and control." Chief Justice Hughes in Monaco v. Mississippi, 292 U.S. 313, 323. The permeative nature of this doctrine was early recognized during the Constitutional Convention. Objection that the present provision giving federal courts jurisdiction of cases arising "under this Constitution" would permit usurpation of non-judicial functions by the federal courts was overruled as unwarranted since it was "generally supposed that the jurisdiction given was constructively limited to cases of a Judiciary nature." 2 Farrand, Records of the Federal Convention, 430. And this statute reflects that doctrine. It does not authorize or require either the district courts or this Court to participate in any legislative, administrative, political or other non-judicial function or to render any advisory opinion. The jurisdiction conferred is limited to controversies of a justiciable nature, the sole feature distinguishing them from countless other controversies handled by the same courts being the fact that one party is a District citizen. Nor has the Congress by this statute attempted to usurp any judicial power. It has deliberately chosen the district courts as the appropriate instrumentality through which to exercise part of the judicial functions incidental to exertion of sovereignty over the District and its citizens.

Unless we are to deny to Congress the same choice of means through which to govern the District of Columbia that we have held it to have in exercising other legislative powers enumerated in the same Article, we cannot hold that Congress lacked the power it sought to exercise in the Act before us.

It is too late to hold that judicial functions incidental to Art. I powers of Congress cannot be conferred on

[ 337 U.S. Page 592]

     courts existing under Art. III, for it has been done with this Court's approval. O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U.S. 516. In that case it was held that, although District of Columbia courts are Art. III courts, they can also exercise judicial power conferred by Congress pursuant to Art. I. The fact that District of Columbia courts, as local courts, can also be given administrative or legislative functions which other Art. III courts cannot exercise, does but emphasize the fact that, although the latter are limited to the exercise of judicial power, it may constitutionally be received from either Art. III or Art. I, and that congressional power over the District, flowing from Art. I, is plenary in every respect.

It is likewise too late to say that we should reach this result by overruling Chief Justice Marshall's view, unless we are prepared also to overrule much more, including some of our own very recent utterances. Many powers of Congress other than its power to govern Columbia require for their intelligent and discriminating exercise determination of controversies of a justiciable character. In no instance has this Court yet held that jurisdiction of such cases could not be placed in the regular federal courts that Congress has been authorized to ordain and establish. We turn to some analogous situations in which we have approved the very course that Congress has taken here.

Congress is given power by Art. I to pay debts of the United States. That involves as an incident the determination of disputed claims. We have held unanimously that congressional authority under Art. I, not the Art. III jurisdiction over suits to which the United States is a party, is the sole source of power to establish the Court of Claims and of the judicial power which that court exercises. Williams v. United States, 289 U.S. 553. In that decision we also noted that it is this same Art. I power that is conferred on district courts by the

[ 337 U.S. Page 593]

     Tucker Act*fn20 which authorizes them to hear and determine such claims in limited amounts. Since a legislative court such as the Court of Claims is "incapable of receiving" Art. III judicial power, American Insurance Co. v. Canter, 1 Pet. 511, 546, it is clear that the power thus exercised by that court and concurrently by the district courts flows from Art. I, not Art. III. Indeed, more recently and again unanimously, this Court has said that by the Tucker Act the Congress authorized the district courts to sit as a court of claims*fn21 exercising the same but no more judicial power. United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 591. And but a few terms ago, in considering an Act by which Congress directed rehearing of a rejected claim and its redetermination in conformity with directions given in the Act, Chief Justice Stone, with the concurrence of all sitting colleagues, reasoned that "The problem presented here is no different than if Congress had given a like direction to any district court to be followed as in other Tucker Act cases." Pope v. United States, 323 U.S. 1, 14. Congress has taken us at our word and recently conferred on the district courts exclusive jurisdiction of tort claims cognizable under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 60 Stat. 842, 843, also enacted

[ 337 U.S. Page 594]

     pursuant to Art. I powers.*fn22 See Brooks v. United States, ante, p. 49.

Congress also is given power in Art. I to make uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies. That this, and not the judicial power under Art. III, is the source of our system of reorganizations and bankruptcy is obvious, Continental Bank v. Chicago, R. I. & P. R. Co., 294 U.S. 648. Not only may the district courts be required to handle these proceedings, but Congress may add to their jurisdiction cases between the trustee and others that, but for the bankruptcy powers, would be beyond their jurisdiction because of lack of diversity required under Art. III. Schumacher v. Beeler, 293 U.S. 367. In that case, Chief Justice Hughes for a unanimous court wrote that, by virtue of its Art. I authority over bankruptcies, the Congress could confer on the regular district courts jurisdiction of "all controversies at law and in equity, as distinguished from proceedings in bankruptcy, between trustees as such and adverse claimants" to the extent specified in § 23b of the Bankruptcy Act as amended. Such jurisdiction was there upheld in a plenary suit, in a district court, by which the trustee sought equitable relief relying

[ 337 U.S. Page 595]

     on allegations raising only questions of Ohio law concerning the validity under that law of a sheriff's levy and execution. Possession by the trustee not being shown, and there being no diversity, jurisdiction in the district court could flow only from the statute. Chief Justice Hughes noted that the distinction between proceedings in bankruptcy and suits at law and in equity was recognized by the terms of the statute itself, but held that "Congress, by virtue of its constitutional authority over bankruptcies, could confer or withhold jurisdiction to entertain such suits and could prescribe the conditions upon which the federal courts should have jurisdiction. . . . Exercising that power, the Congress prescribed in § 23b the condition of consent on the part of the defendant sued by the trustee. Section 23b was thus in effect a grant of jurisdiction subject to that condition." 293 U.S. 367, 374. He concluded that the statute granted jurisdiction to the district court "although the bankrupt could not have brought suit there if proceedings in bankruptcy had not been instituted . . . ." 293 U.S. 367, 377. And he stated the correct view to be that § 23 conferred substantive jurisdiction, 293 U.S. 367, 371, disapproving statements in an earlier case that Congress lacked power to confer such jurisdiction. Id. at 377. Thus, the Court held that Congress had power to authorize an Art. III court to entertain a non-Art. III suit because such judicial power was conferred under Art. I. Indeed, the present Court has assumed, without even discussion, that Congress has such power. In Williams v. Austrian, 331 U.S. 642, 657, the CHIEF JUSTICE, speaking for the Court, said that ". . . Congress intended by the elimination of § 23 [from Chapter X of the Bankruptcy Act] to establish the jurisdiction of federal courts to hear plenary suits brought by a reorganization trustee, even though diversity or other usual ground for federal jurisdiction is lacking." (Emphasis

[ 337 U.S. Page 596]

     supplied.) There was vigorous dissent as to the meaning of the statute, but the dissenting Justices referred to the Court's holding that "a Chapter X trustee may bring this plenary suit in personam in a federal district court not the reorganization court, although neither diversity of citizenship nor other ground of federal jurisdiction exists." 331 U.S. 642, 664. And the dissent continued: "No doubt Congress could authorize such a suit. See Schumacher v. Beeler, 293 U.S. 367, 374." Ibid.

This assumption by the Court in the Beeler and Austrian cases, that the Congress had power to confer on the district courts jurisdiction of nondiversity suits involving only state law questions, made unnecessary any discussion of the source of the assumed power. In view of Congress' plenary control over bankruptcies, the Court may have grounded such assumption on Art. I. Or it might have considered that the jurisdiction was based on Art. III, and statutes enacted pursuant to it, giving the district courts jurisdiction over suits arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States. Had the Court held such a view, this latter might have commended itself as the most obvious answer. Consequently, silence in this respect, in the decision of each case, seems significant, particularly in contrast with repeated reference to Art. I power in the Beeler case, and sweeping language in the Austrian case that such jurisdiction existed despite lack of diversity "or other usual ground for federal jurisdiction." Nevertheless, it is now asserted, in retrospect, that those cases did arise under the laws of the United States. No justification is offered for that conclusion and there is no effort to say just why or how the cases did so arise. This would indeed be difficult if we still adhere to the doctrine of Mr. Justice Holmes that "a suit arises under the law that creates the cause

[ 337 U.S. Page 597]

     of action," American Well Works Co. v. Layne Co., 241 U.S. 257, 260, for the cause of action in each case rested solely on state law.

But the matter does not rest on inference alone. Other decisions of this Court demonstrate conclusively that jurisdiction over the Beeler and Austrian suits was not and could not have been conferred under Art. III and statutes concerning suits arising under the laws of the United States. A most thoroughly-considered utterance of this Court on that subject was given by Mr. Justice Cardozo, in Gully v. First National Bank, 299 U.S. 109, where he said, without dissent, "How and when a case arises 'under the Constitution or laws of the United States' has been much considered in the books. Some tests are well established. To bring a case within the statute, a right or immunity created by the Constitution or laws of the United States must be an element, and an essential one, of the plaintiff's cause of action. . . . [Emphasis added.] The right or immunity must be such that it will be supported if the Constitution or laws of the United States are given one construction or effect, and defeated if they receive another. . . . A genuine and present controversy, not merely a possible or conjectural one, must exist with reference thereto . . . and the controversy must be disclosed upon the face of the complaint . . . ." 299 U.S. 109, 112-113. After reviewing previous cases, Mr. Justice Cardozo referred to a then recent opinion by Mr. Justice Stone in which he said, for a unanimous court, that federal jurisdiction "may not be invoked where the right asserted is non-federal, merely because the plaintiff's right to sue is derived from federal law, or because the property involved was obtained under federal statute. The federal nature of the right to be established is decisive -- not the source of the authority to establish it." Puerto Rico v. Russell & Co., 288 U.S. 476, 483.

[ 337 U.S. Page 598]

     (Emphasis added.)*fn23 See also Switchmen's Union v. Board, 320 U.S. 297; General Committee v. M.-K.-T. R. Co., 320 U.S. 323.

Neither the Austrian nor the Beeler case meets these tests, required before a case can be said to arise under the laws of the United States, any more than does the case before us. Austrian, as trustee, sued in equity for an accounting based on a charge that affairs of a state-created corporation had been conducted by the officers in violation of state law. Beeler, as trustee, sued on a contention that a levy on property by an Ohio sheriff was void under state law. Both controversies, like the one before

[ 337 U.S. Page 599]

     us, called for a determination of no law question except those arising under state laws. The only way in which any law of the United States contributed to the case was in opening the district courts to the trustee, under Art. I powers of Congress, just as the present statute, under the same Article, opens those courts to residents of the District of Columbia. In each case, in the words of Chief Justice Stone, the federal law provided, not the right sought to be established, but only the authority of the trustee to establish it. The fact that the congressional power over bankruptcy granted by Art. I could open the court to the trustee does not mean that such suits arise under the laws of the United States; but it does mean that Art. I can supply a source of judicial power for their adjudication. The distinction is important and it is decisive on this issue.

Neither the Beeler nor the Austrian case was one arising under the laws of the United States within the clear language of recent holdings by this Court. Unless we are to deny the jurisdiction in such cases which has consistently been upheld, we must rely on the Art. I powers of the Congress. We have been cited to no holding that such jurisdiction cannot spring from that Article. Under Art. I the Congress has given the district courts not only jurisdiction over cases arising under the bankruptcy law but also judicial power over nondiversity cases which do not arise under that or any other federal law. And this Court has upheld the latter grant.

Consequently, we can deny validity to this present Act of Congress, only by saying that the power over the District given by Art. I is somehow less ample than that over bankruptcy given by the same Article. If Congress could require this district court to decide this very case if it were brought by a trustee, it is hard to see why it may not require its decision for a solvent claimant when done in pursuance of other Art. I powers.

[ 337 U.S. Page 600]

     We conclude that where Congress in the exercise of its powers under Art. I finds it necessary to provide those on whom its power is exerted with access to some kind of court or tribunal for determination of controversies that are within the traditional concept of the justiciable, it may open the regular federal courts to them regardless of lack of diversity of citizenship. The basis of the holdings we have discussed is that, when Congress deems that for such purposes it owes a forum to claimants and trustees, it may execute its power in this manner. The Congress, with equal justification, apparently considers that it also owes such a forum to the residents of the District of Columbia in execution of its power and duty under the same Article. We do not see how the one could be sustained and the other denied.

We therefore hold that Congress may exert its power to govern the District of Columbia by imposing the judicial function of adjudicating justiciable controversies on the regular federal courts*fn24 which under the Constitution it has the power to ordain and establish and which it may invest with jurisdiction and from which it may withhold jurisdiction "in the exact degrees and character which to Congress may seem proper for the public good." Lockerty v. Phillips, 319 U.S. 182, 187.

The argument that congressional powers over the District are not to be exercised outside of its territorial limits also is pressed upon us. But this same contention has long been held by this Court to be untenable. In Cohens

[ 337 U.S. Page 601]

     v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 264, 425, 429, Chief Justice Marshall, answering the argument that Congress, when legislating for the District, "was reduced to a mere local legislature, whose laws could possess no obligation out of the ten miles square," said "Congress is not a local legislature, but exercises this particular power, like all its other powers, in its high character, as the legislature of the Union. The American people thought it a necessary power, and they conferred it for their own benefit. Being so conferred, it carries with it all those incidental powers which are necessary to its complete and effectual execution." In O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U.S. 516, 539, this Court approved a statement made by Circuit Judge Taft, later Chief Justice of this Court, speaking for himself and Judge (later Mr. Justice) Lurton, that "The object of the grant of exclusive legislation over the district was, therefore, national in the highest sense, and the city organized under the grant became the city, not of a state, not of a district, but of a nation. In the same article which granted the powers of exclusive legislation over its seat of government are conferred all the other great powers which make the nation, including the power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. He would be a strict constructionist, indeed, who should deny to congress the exercise of this latter power in furtherance of that of organizing and maintaining a proper local government at the seat of government. Each is for a national purpose, and the one may be used in aid of the other. . . ." And, just prior to enactment of the statute now challenged on this ground, the Court of Appeals for the District itself, sitting en banc, and relying on the foregoing authorities, had said that Congress "possesses full and unlimited jurisdiction to provide for the general welfare" of District citizens "by any and every act of legislation which it may deem conducive to that end . . .

[ 337 U.S. Page 602]

     when it legislates for the District, Congress acts as a legislature of national character, exercising complete legislative control as contrasted with the limited power of a state legislature, on the one hand, and as contrasted with the limited sovereignty which Congress exercises within the boundaries of the states, on the other." Neild v. District of Columbia, 71 App. D.C. 306, 310, 110 F.2d 246, 250.

We could not of course countenance any exercise of this plenary power either within or without the District if it were such as to draw into congressional control subjects over which there has been no delegation of power to the Federal Government. But, as we have pointed out, the power to make this defendant suable by a District citizen is not claimed to be outside of federal competence. If Congress has power to bring the defendant from his home all the way to a forum within the District, there seems little basis for denying it power to require him to meet the plaintiff part way in another forum. The practical issue here is whether, if defendant is to be suable at all by District citizens, he must be compelled to come to the courts of the District of Columbia or perhaps to a special statutory court sitting outside of it, or whether Congress may authorize the regular federal courts to entertain the suit. We see no justification for holding that Congress in accomplishing an end admittedly within its power is restricted to those means which are most cumbersome and burdensome to a defendant. Since it may provide the District citizen with a federal forum in which to sue the citizens of one of the states, it is hard to imagine a fairer or less prejudiced one than the regular federal courts sitting in the defendant's own state. To vest the jurisdiction in them rather than in courts sitting in the District of Columbia would seem less harsh to defendants and more consistent with the principles of venue that prevail in our system

[ 337 U.S. Page 603]

     under which defendants are generally suable in their home forums.

The Act before us, as we see it, is not a resort by Congress to these means to reach forbidden ends. Rather, Congress is reaching permissible ends by a choice of means which certainly are not expressly forbidden by the Constitution. No good reason is advanced for the Court to deny them by implication. In no matter should we pay more deference to the opinions of Congress than in its choice of instrumentalities to perform a function that is within its power.*fn25 To put federally administered justice within the reach of District citizens, in claims against citizens of another state, is an object which Congress has a right to accomplish. Its own carefully considered view that it has the power and that it is necessary and proper to utilize United States District Courts as means to this end, is entitled to great respect. Our own ideas as to the wisdom or desirability of such a statute or the constitutional provision authorizing it are totally irrelevant. Such a law of Congress should be stricken down

[ 337 U.S. Page 604]

     only on a clear showing that it transgresses constitutional limitations. We think no such showing has been made.*fn26 The Act is valid.

The judgment is

Reversed.

Disposition

165 F.2d 531, reversed.

MR. JUSTICE RUTLEDGE, with whom MR. JUSTICE MURPHY agrees, concurring.

I join in the Court's judgment. But I strongly dissent from the reasons assigned to support it in the opinion of MR. JUSTICE JACKSON.

While giving lip service to the venerable decision in Hepburn & Dundas v. Ellzey, 2 Cranch 445, and purporting to distinguish it, that opinion ignores nearly a century and a half of subsequent consistent construction.*fn1 In all practical consequence, it would overrule that decision with its later reaffirmations. Pertinently it may be asked, how and where are those decisions to operate, if not just in the situation presented by this case? And, if there is no other, would they not be effectively overruled?

What is far worse and more important, the manner in which this reversal would be made, if adhered to by a majority of the Court, would entangle every district court of the United States for the first time in all of the contradictions, complexities and subtleties which have

[ 337 U.S. Page 605]

     surrounded the courts of the District of Columbia in the maze woven by the "legislative court -- constitutional court" controversy running through this Court's decisions concerning them.*fn2

In my opinion it would be better to continue following what I conceive to be the original error of the Hepburn decision and its progeny than thus to ensnarl the general system of federal courts. Jurisdictional and doctrinal troubles enough we have concerning them without adding others by ruling now that they have the origin and jurisdiction of "legislative" courts in addition to that of ...


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