Circuit Judge Taney Opines on the Exclusive Jurisdiction of the Federal Courts To Divest State Courts of Jurisdiction

September 15th, 2011

In Gittings v. Crawford, Taney 1, 10 F.Cas. 447 C.C.Md. 1838:

In the case of Davis v. Packard, 7 Pet. [32 U. S.] 281, the question was brought before the court by writ of error from the court of errors of New York, which court was supposed to have decided that a state court had jurisdiction in cases where a consul was concerned. It turned out afterwards, that the court had not so decided; but the supreme court, when the case came before them, interpreted the record otherwise, and, acting upon that interpretation, reviewed the judgment of the court of errors of New York. Judge Thompson, in delivering the judgment of the supreme court, says: ‘As an abstract question, it is difficult to understand, on what ground a state court can claim jurisdiction of civil suits against foreign consuls. By the constitution, the judicial power of the United States extends to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; and the judiciary act of 1789, § 9 (1 Stat. 76), gives to the district courts of the United States, exclusively of the courts of the several states, jurisdiction of all suits against consuls and vice-consuls, except for certain offences mentioned in the act.’ This language used by the court, with the point directly before them, can only be understood as an affirmance of the constitutionality of the act of 1789; for the exclusion of the state courts is not put upon the ground, that they were impliedly excluded by the grant of original jurisdiction in such cases to the supreme court; but the decision is placed on the grant of power to the courts of the United States generally, and on the act of 1789, which conferred the jurisdiction on the district courts, and excluded the state courts. No notice is taken, in that opinion, of the clause conferring original jurisdiction on the supreme court. The exclusion of the state courts is not derived from it, but from the act of 1789; so, of course, that act was deemed constitutional.

Independently, however, of any judicial authority, the conclusions of my own mind must have been very clear and free from doubt, before I should have felt myself justified in pronouncing an act of congress passed in 1789 a violation of the constitution. It was the first congress that met under the constitution, and in it were many men who had taken a prominent and leading part in framing and supporting that instrument, and who certainly well understood the meaning of the words they used. The fact that the law in question was passed by such a body, in strong evidence that the words of the constitution were not intended to forbid its passage.
Nor am I by any means satisfied that the words used require a different construction from that given to them by the act of 1789. There are no express words of exclusion in the clause which confers original jurisdiction, in the cases mentioned, upon the supreme court. Why should they be implied? They are clearly not implied in relation to the state courts, in the clause immediately preceding, which gives judicial power in certain cases to the courts of the United States; for there are some subjects there enumerated from which it never could have been designed to exclude altogether the state authorities. For example, the constitution of the United States is the supreme law in the several states, and the courts of the states are bound to respect and interpret it, and to declare any state law null and void which violates its provisions. Again, the laws of congress, when passed in the exercise of its constitutional powers, are obligatory upon the state courts, and must be construed by the courts, and obeyed by them, whenever they come in conflict with the laws of the state. It is true, that the decisions of the state courts must be subordinate to, and subject to the revision of, the supreme court of the United States, to whom the ultimate decision of such questions belongs; yet, the state courts are not, and cannot, from the nature of our institutions, be excluded from all jurisdiction in such matters, and the grant of power to the courts of the United States has never been held to exclude them. If the grant of jurisdiction ot the courts of the United States, generally, is not, by implication, the exclusion of all other courts, in the cases enumerated in that grant of power, why should the grant of original jurisdiction to the supreme court in certain cases, in the very same section, and by the next succeeding clause, be held to imply such exclusion? The original jurisdiction conferred on the supreme court is not inconsistent with the exercise of original jurisdiction on the same subjects by the inferior courts of the United States, and there is no necessity, therefore, for implying an intention to exclude them.
And from US v. Bank of New York & Trust:
But the grant of jurisdiction to the District Court in suits brought by the United States does not purport to confer exclusive jurisdiction. It is a general rule that the grant of jurisdiction to one court does not, of itself, imply that the jurisdiction is to be exclusive. See Gittings v. Crawford, Taney, 1, Fed.Cas. No. 5,465; Ames v. Kansas, 111 U.S. 449, 464 , 4 S.Ct. 437; Plaquemines Tropical Fruit Co. v. Henderson, 170 U.S. 511, 517 , 518 S., 18 S.Ct. 685; Merryweather v. United States (C.C.A.) 12 F.(2d) 407, 409, 410. Upon the state courts, equally with the courts of the Union, rests the obligation to guard and enforce every right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States whenever those rights are involved in any suit or proceedings before them. Robb v. Connolly, 111 U.S. 624, 637 , 4 S.Ct. 544. In this instance, it cannot be doubted that the United States is free to invoke the jurisdiction of the state court for the determination of its claim, and the decision of the state court of any federal question which may be presented upon such an invocation, may be reviewed by this court, and thus all the questions which the government seeks to raise in these suits may be appropriately and finally decided. Jud.Code, 237, as amended, 28 U.S.C. 344 (28 U.S. C.A. 344). [296 U.S. 463, 480]   
No one argues that Congress explicitly granted federal courts exclusive jurisdiction over cases arising under OCSLA. Congress did grant United States district courts “original [453 U.S. 473, 479]  jurisdiction of cases and controversies arising out of or in connection with any operations conducted on the outer Continental Shelf . . . .” 43 U.S.C. 1333 (b). 5 It is black letter law, however, that the mere grant of jurisdiction to a federal court does not operate to oust a state court from concurrent jurisdiction over the cause of action. 6 United States v. Bank of New York & Trust Co., 296 U.S. 463, 479 (1936).
And TAFFLIN v. LEVITT, 493 U.S. 455 (1990):

As we noted in Claflin, “if exclusive jurisdiction be neither express nor implied, the State courts have concurrent jurisdiction whenever, by their own constitution, they are competent to take it.” 93 U.S., at 136 ; see also Dowd Box, supra, at 507-508 (“We start with the premise that nothing in the concept of our federal system prevents state courts from enforcing rights created by federal law. Concurrent jurisdiction has been a common phenomenon in our judicial history, and exclusive federal court jurisdiction over cases arising under federal law has been the exception rather than the rule”). See generally 1 J. Kent, Commentaries on American Law *400; The Federalist No. 82 (A. Hamilton); F. Frankfurter & J. Landis, The Business of the Supreme Court 5-12 (1927); H. Friendly, Federal Jurisdiction: A General View 8-11 (1973).

This deeply rooted presumption in favor of concurrent state court jurisdiction is, of course, rebutted if Congress affirmatively ousts the state courts of jurisdiction over a particular federal claim. See, e. g., Claflin, supra, at 137 (“Congress may, if it see[s] fit, give to the Federal courts exclusive jurisdiction”) (citations omitted); see also Houston, supra, at 25-26. As we stated in Gulf Offshore:


      “In considering the propriety of state-court jurisdiction over any particular federal claim, the Court begins with the presumption that state courts enjoy concurrent jurisdiction. Congress, however, may confine jurisdiction to the federal courts either explicitly or implicitly. Thus, the presumption of concurrent jurisdiction can be rebutted by an explicit statutory directive, by unmistakable implication from legislative history, or by a clear incompatibility

[493 U.S. 455, 460]   

      between state-court jurisdiction and federal interests.”

453 U.S., at 478 

      (citations omitted).
And this seems on point, from CLAFLIN v. HOUSEMAN, 93 U.S. 130 (1876):

The general question, whether State courts can exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the Federal courts in cases arising under the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States, has been elaborately discussed, both on the bench and in published treatises,- sometimes with a leaning in one direction and sometimes in the other,-but the result of these discussions has, in our judgment, been, as seen in the above cases, to affirm the jurisdiction, where it is not excluded by express provision, or by incompatibility in its exercise arising from the nature of the particular case.

When we consider the structure and true relations of the Federal and State governments, there is really no just foundation for excluding the State courts from all such jurisdiction.

The laws of the United States are laws in the several States, and just as much binding on the citizens and courts thereof as the State laws are. The United States is not a foreign sovereignty as regards the several States, but is a concurrent, and, within its jurisdiction, paramount sovereignty. Every citizen of a State is a subject of two distinct sovereignties, having concurrent jurisdiction in the State,-concurrent as to place and persons, though distinct as to subject-matter. Legal or equitable rights, acquired under either system of laws, may be enforced in any court of either sovereignty competent to hear and determine such kind of rights and not restrained by its constitution in the exercise of such jurisdiction. Thus, a legal or equitable right acquired under State laws, may be prosecuted in the State courts, and also, if the parties reside in different States, in the Federal courts. So rights, whether legal or equitable, acquired [93 U.S. 130, 137]   under the laws of the United States, may be prosecuted in the United States courts, or in the State courts, competent to decide rights of the like character and class; subject, however, to this qualification, that where a right arises under a law of the United States, Congress may, if it see fit, give to the Federal courts exclusive jurisdiction. See remarks of Mr. Justice Field, in The Moses Taylor, 4 Wall. 429, and Story, J., in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 1 Wheat. 334; and of Mr. Justice Swayne, in Ex parte McNeil, 13 Wall. 236. This jurisdiction is sometimes exclusive by express enactment and sometimes by implication. If an act of Congress gives a penalty to a party aggrieved, without specifying a remedy for its enforcement, there is no reason why it should not be enforced, if not provided otherwise by some act of Congress, by a proper action in a State court. The fact that a State court derives its existence and functions from the State laws is no reason why it should not afford relief; because it is subject also to the laws of the United States, and is just as much bound to recognize these as operative within the State as it is to recognize the State laws. The two together form one system of jurisprudence, which constitute the law of the land for the State; and the courts of the two jurisdictions are not foreign to each other, nor to be treated by each other as such, but as courts of the same country, having jurisdiction partly different and partly concurrent. The disposition to regard the laws of the United States as emanating from a foreign jurisdiction is founded on erroneous views of the nature and relations of the State and Federal governments. It is often the cause or the consequence of an unjustifiable jealousy of the United States government, which has been the occasion of disastrous evils to the country.

It is true, the sovereignties are distinct, and neither can interfere with the proper jurisdiction of the other, as was so clearly shown by Chief Justice Taney, in the case of Ableman v. Booth, 21 How. 506; and hence the State courts have no power to revise the action of the Federal courts, nor the Federal the State, except where the Federal Constitution or laws are involved. But this is no reason why the State courts should not be open for the prosecution of rights growing out of the laws of the United States, to which their jurisdiction is competent, and not denied. [93 U.S. 130, 138]   A reference to some of the discussions, to which the subject under consideration has given rise, may not be out of place on this occasion.

It was fully examined in the eighty-second number of ‘The Federalist,’ by Alexander Hamilton, with his usual analytical power and far-seeing genius; and hardly an argument or a suggestion has been made since which he did not anticipate. After showing that exclusive delegation of authority to the Federal government can arise only in one of three ways,- either by express grant of exclusive authority over a particular subject; or by a simple grant of authority, with a subsequent prohibition thereof to the States; or, lastly, where an authority granted to the Union would be utterly incompatible with a similar authority in the States,-he says, that these principles may also apply to the judiciary as well as the legislative power. Hence, he infers that the State courts will retain the jurisdiction they then had, unless taken away in one of the enumerated modes. But, as their previous jurisdiction could not be possibility extend to cases which might grow out of and be peculiar to the new constitution, he considered that, as to such cases, Congress might give the Federal courts sole jurisdiction. ‘I hold,’ says he, ‘that the State courts will be divested of no part of their primitive jurisdiction, further than may relate to an appeal; and I am even of opinion, that in every case in which they were not expressly excluded by the future acts of the national legislature, they will, of course, take cognizance of the causes to which those acts may give birth. This I infer from the nature of judiciary power, and from the general genius of the system. The judiciary power of every government looks beyond its own local or municipal laws, and, in civil cases, lays hold of all subjects of litigation between parties within its jurisdiction, though the causes of dispute are relative to the laws of the most distant part of the globe. . . . When, in addition to this, we consider the State governments and the national government, as they truly are, in the light of kindred systems, and as parts of ONE WHOLE, the inference seems to be conclusive, that the State courts would have concurrent jurisdiction in all cases arising under the laws of the Union, where it was not expressly prohibited.’ [93 U.S. 130, 139]   These views seem to have been shared by the first Congress in drawing up the Judiciary Act of Sept. 24, 1789; for, in distributing jurisdiction among the various courts created by that act, there is a constant exercise of the authority to include or exclude the State courts therefrom; and where no direction is given on the subject, it was assumed, in our early judicial history, that the State courts retained their usual jurisdiction concurrently with the Federal courts invested with jurisdiction in like cases.

Thus, by the Judiciary Act, exclusive cognizance was given to the circuit and district courts of the United States of all crimes and offences cognizable under the authority of the United States; and the same to the district courts, of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, of all seizures on water under the laws of impost, navigation, or trade of the United States, and of all seizures on land for penalties and forfeitures incurred under said laws. Concurrent jurisdiction with the State courts was given to the district and circuit courts of all causes where an alien sues for a tort only in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States, and of all writs at common law where the United States are plaintiffs; the same to the circuit courts, where the suit is between a citizen of the State where the suit is brought and a citizen of another State, where an alien is a party, &c. Here, no distinction is made between those branches of jurisdiction in respect to which the Constitution uses the expression ‘all cases,’ and those in respect to which the term ‘all’ is omitted. Some have supposed that wherever the Constitution declares that the judicial power shall extend to ‘all cases,’-as, all cases in law and equity arising under the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States; all cases affecting ambassadors, &c.,-the jurisdiction of the Federal courts is necessarily exclusive; but that where the power is simply extended ‘to controversies’ of a certain class,-as, ‘controversies to which the United States is a party,’ &c.,-the jurisdiction of the Federal courts is not necessarily exclusive. But no such distinction seems to have been recognized by Congress, as already seen in the Judiciary Act; and subsequent acts show the same thing. Thus, the first patent law for securing to inventors [93 U.S. 130, 140]   their discoveries and inventions, which was passed in 1793, gave treble damages for an infringement, to be recovered in an action on the case founded on the statute in the Circuit Court of the United States, ‘or any other court having competent jurisdiction,’-meaning, of course, the State courts. The subsequent acts on the same subject were couched in such terms with regard to the jurisdiction of the circuit courts as to imply that it was exclusive of the State courts; and now it is expressly made so. See Patent Acts of 1800, 1819, 1836, 1870, and Rev. Stat. U. S., sect. 711; Parsons v. Barnard, 7 Johns. 144; Dudley v. Mayhew, 3 Comst. 14; Elmer v. Pennel, 40 Me. 434.

So with regard to naturalization,-a subject necessarily within the exclusive regulation of Congress,-the first act on the subject, passed in 1790, and all the subsequent acts, give plenary jurisdiction to the State courts. The language of the act of 1790 is, ‘any common-law court of record in any one of the States,’ &c. 1 Stat. 103. The act of 1802 designates ‘the Supreme, Superior, District, or Circuit Court of some one of the States, or of the territorial districts of the United States, or a circuit or district court of the United States.’ 2 Stat. 153.

So, by acts passed in 1806 and 1808, jurisdiction was given to the county courts along the northern frontier, of suits for fines, penalties, and forfeitures under the revenue laws of the United States. 2 Stat. 354, 489. And by act of March 3, 1815, cognizance was given to State and county courts, generally, of suits for taxes, duties, fines, penalties, and forfeitures arising under the laws imposing direct taxes and internal duties. 3 Stat. 244.

These instances show the prevalent opinion which existed, that the State courts were competent to have jurisdiction in cases arising wholly under the laws of the United States; and whether they possessed it or not, in a particular case, was a matter of construction of the acts relating thereto. It is true that the State courts have, in certain instances, declined to exercise the jurisdiction conferred upon them; but this does not militate against the weight of the general argument. See United States v. Lathrop, 17 Johns. 4. See, especially, the able dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Platt, id. 11.

It was, indeed, intimated by Mr. Justice Story, obiter dictum, in delivering the opinion of the court in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, [93 U.S. 130, 141]   1 Wheat. 334-337, that the State courts could not take direct cognizance of cases arising under the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States, as no such jurisdiction existed before the Constitution was adopted. This is true as to jurisdiction depending on United States authority; but the same jurisdiction existed (at least to a certain extent) under the authority of the States. Inventors had grants of exclusive right to their inventions before the Constitution was adopted, and the State courts had jurisdiction thereof. The change of authority creating the right did not change the nature of the right itself. The assertion, therefore, that no such jurisdiction previously existed, must be taken with important limitations, and did not have much influence with the court when a proper case arose for its adjudication. Houston v. Moore, decided in 1820, 5 Wheat. 1, was such a case. Congress, in 1795, had passed an act for organizing and calling forth the militia, which prescribed the punishment to be inflicted on delinquents, making them liable to pay a certain fine, to be determined and adjudged by a court-martial, without specifying what court-martial. The legislature of Pennsylvania also passed a militia law, providing for the organization, training, and calling out the militia, and establishing courts-martial for the trial of delinquents. The law in many respects exactly corresponded with that of the United States, and, as far as it covered the same ground, was for that reason held to be inoperative and void. Houston, a delinquent under the United States law, was tried by a State court-martial; and it was decided that the court had jurisdiction of the offence, having been constituted, in fact, to enforce the laws of the United States which the State legislature had reenacted. But the decision (which was delivered by Mr. Justice Washington) was based upon the general principle that the State court had jurisdiction of the offence, irrespective of the authority, State or Federal, which created it. Not that Congress could confer jurisdiction upon the State courts, but that these courts might exercise jurisdiction on cases authorized by the laws of the State, and not prohibited by the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal courts. Justices Story and Johnson dissented; and, perhaps, the court went further, in that case, than it would now. The act of Congress having [93 U.S. 130, 142]   instituted courts-martial, as well as provided a complete code for the organization and calling forth of the militia, the entire law of Pennsylvania on the same subject might well have been regarded as void. Be this as it may, it was only a question of construction; and the court conceded that Congress had the power to make the jurisdiction of its own courts exclusive.

In Cohens v. Virginia, 6 Wheat. 415, Chief Justice Marshall demonstrates the necessity of an appellate power in the Federal judiciary to revise the decisions of State courts in cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States, in order that the constitutional grant of judicial power, extending it to all such cases, may have full effect. He says, ‘The propriety of intrusting the construction of the Constitution and laws, made in pursuance thereof, to the judiciary of the Union, has not, we believe, as yet, been drawn in question. It seems to be a corollary from this political axiom, that the Federal courts should either possess exclusive jurisdiction in such cases, or a power to revise the judgment rendered in them by the State tribunals. If the Federal and State courts have concurrent jurisdiction in all cases arising under the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States, and if a case of this description brought in a State court cannot be removed before judgment, nor revised after judgment, then the construction of the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States is not confided particularly to their judicial department, but is confided equally to that department and to the State courts, however they may be constituted.’

See the subject further discussed in 1 Kent’s Com. 395, &c., Sergeant on the Const. 268; 2 Story on the Const., sect. 1748, &c.; 1 Curtis’s Com., sects. 119, 134, &c.

The case of Teal v. Felton was a suit brought in the State court of New York against a postmaster for neglect of duty to deliver a newspaper under the postal laws of the United States. The action was sustained by both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals of New York, and their decision was affirmed by this court. 1 Comst. 537; 12 How. 292. We do not see why this case is not decisive of the very question under consideration.

Without discussing the subject further, it is sufficient to say, [93 U.S. 130, 143]   that we hold that the assignee in bankruptcy, under the Bankrupt Act of 1867, as it stood before the revision, had authority to bring a suit in the State courts, wherever those courts were invested with appropriate jurisdiction, suited to the nature of the case.

You should be able to follow my research trail.