No. 6.

176 U.S. 1 (1900)


Supreme Court of United States.

Decided January 15, 1900.

Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Milton J. Cunningham, Mr. Edgar H. Farrar, Mr. Benjamin F. Jonas, Mr. Ernest B. Kruttschnitt, and Mr. E. Howard McCaleb for the State of Louisiana.

Mr. Thomas S. Smith and Mr. Robert H. Ward for the State of Texas and others.

Mr. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

The ninth of the Articles of Confederation of 1778 provided that the Congress should be "the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that may hereafter arise between two or more States concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other cause whatever," the authority to be exercised through a tribunal to be created by the Congress as prescribed, and whose judgment should be final and conclusive; and also that "all controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more States" should be determined in the same manner.

In the Constitutional Convention, the Committee of Detail, composed of Rutledge, Randolph, Gorham, Ellsworth and Wilson, to which the resolutions arrived at by the Convention and sundry propositions had been referred, reported on the sixth of August, A.D. 1787, a draft of a Constitution, consisting of twenty-three articles.

The second section of the ninth article provided that as to "all disputes and controversies now subsisting, or that may hereafter subsist, between two or more States, respecting jurisdiction or territory," the Senate should have power to designate a special tribunal to finally determine the same by its judgment; and by the third section, "all controversies concerning lands claimed under different grants of two or more States" were to be similarly determined.

The third section of the proposed eleventh article provided, among other things, that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court should extend "to controversies between two or more States, except such as shall regard territory or jurisdiction; between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of different States; and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens or subjects."

On the twenty-fifth of August Mr. Rutledge said in respect to sections two and three of article nine: "This provision for deciding controversies between the States was necessary under the Confederation, but will be rendered unnecessary by the National Judiciary now to be established;" and on his motion the sections were stricken out.

The words "between citizens of the same State claiming lands under grants of different States" were subsequently inserted in the third section of the eleventh article, and the words "except such as shall regard territory or jurisdiction" omitted. 1 Elliot, 223, 224, 261, 262, 267, 270; 5 Elliot, 471; Meigs on Growth of the Constitution, 244, 249.

Clauses 1 and 2 of the second section of Article III of the Constitution as finally adopted read:

"The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority; to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two or more States; between a State and citizens of another State; between citizens of different States, between citizens of the same State claiming lands under grants of different States, and between a State, or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens or subjects.

"In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make."

The reference we have made to the derivation of the words "controversies between two or more States" manifestly indicates that the framers of the Constitution intended that they should include something more than controversies over "territory or jurisdiction"; for in the original draft as reported the latter controversies were to be disposed of by the Senate, and controversies other than those by the judiciary, to which by amendment all were finally committed. But it is apparent that the jurisdiction is of so delicate and grave a character that it was not contemplated that it would be exercised save when the necessity was absolute and the matter in itself properly justiciable.

Undoubtedly, as remarked by Mr. Justice Bradley in Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 15, the Constitution made some things "justiciable which were not known as such at the common law; such, for example, as controversies between States as to boundary lines, and other questions admitting of judicial solution. . . . The establishment of this new branch of jurisdiction seemed to be necessary from the extinguishment of diplomatic relations between the States. Of other controversies between a State and another State or its citizens, which on the settled principles of public law are not subjects of judicial cognizance, this court has often declined to take jurisdiction. See Wisconsin v. Pelican Ins. Co., 127 U.S. 265, 288, 289, and cases there cited."

By the Judiciary Act of 1789 the judicial system was organized and the powers of the different courts defined. Its thirteenth section, carried forward as § 687 of the Revised Statutes, provided "that the Supreme Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of all controversies of a civil nature, where a State is a party, except between a State and its citizens; and except also between a State and citizens of other States, or aliens, in which latter case it shall have original but not exclusive jurisdiction."

The language of the second clause of the second section of Article III, "in all cases in which a State shall be party," means in all the enumerated cases in which a State shall be a party, and this is stated expressly when the clause speaks of the other cases where appellate jurisdiction is to be exercised. This second clause distributes the jurisdiction conferred in the previous one into original and appellate jurisdiction, but does not profess to confer any. The original jurisdiction depends solely on the character of the parties, and is confined to the cases in which are those enumerated parties and those only. California v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 157 U.S. 229, 259; United States v. Texas, 143 U.S. 621. And by the Constitution and according to the statute, the original jurisdiction of this court is exclusive over suits between States, though not exclusive over those between a State and citizens of another State.

On the 8th of January, 1798, the Eleventh Amendment was ratified, as follows: "The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign State."

Referring to this Amendment, Mr. Chief Justice Waite, in New Hampshire v. Louisiana and New York v. Louisiana, 108 U.S. 76, 91, said: "The evident purpose of the Amendment, so promptly proposed and finally adopted, was to prohibit all suits against a State by or for citizens of other States, or aliens, without the consent of the State to be sued, and in our opinion, one State cannot create a controversy with another State within the meaning of that term as used in the judicial clauses of the Constitution by assuming the prosecution of debts owing by other States to its citizens."

In order then to maintain jurisdiction of this bill of complaint as against the State of Texas, it must appear that the controversy to be determined is a controversy arising directly between the State of Louisiana and the State of Texas, and not a controversy in the vindication of the grievances of particular individuals.

By the Constitution, the States are forbidden to "enter into any treaty, alliance or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal;" or, without the consent of Congress, "keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay." Art. 1, sec. 10.

Controversies between them arising out of public relations and intercourse cannot be settled either by war or diplomacy, though, with the consent of Congress, they may be composed by agreement. As pointed out by Mr. Justice Field in Virginia v. Tennessee, 148 U.S. 503, 519, there are many matters on which the different States may agree that can in no respect concern the United States, while there are other compacts or agreements to which the prohibition of the Constitution applies. And as to this, he quotes from Mr. Justice Story as follows: "Story, in his Commentaries, (§ 1403,) referring to a previous part of the same section of the Constitution in which the clause in question appears, observed that its language `may be more plausibly interpreted from the terms used, "treaty, alliance or confederation," and upon the ground that the sense of each is best known by its association (noscitur a sociis) to apply to treaties of a political character; such as treaties of alliance for purposes of peace and war; and treaties of confederation, in which the parties are leagued for mutual government, political cooperation, and the exercise of political sovereignty, and treaties of cession of sovereignty, or conferring internal political jurisdiction, or external political dependence, or general commercial privileges;' and that `the latter clause, "compacts and agreements," might then very properly apply to such as regarded what might be deemed mere private rights of sovereignty; such as questions of boundary; interests in lands situate in the territory of each other, and other internal regulations for the mutual comfort and convenience of States bordering on each other.' And he adds: `In such cases the consent of Congress may be properly required, in order to check any infringement of the rights of the National Government; and, at the same time, a total prohibition to enter into any compact or agreement might be attended with permanent inconvenience or public mischief.'" But it was also there ruled that where the consent of Congress was requisite, it might be given subsequently or might be implied from subsequent action of Congress itself toward the two States.

In the absence of agreement it may be that a controversy might arise between two States for the determination of which the original jurisdiction of this court could be invoked, but there must be a direct issue between them, and the subject-matter must be susceptible of judicial solution. And it is difficult to conceive of a direct issue between two States in respect of a matter where no effort at accommodation has been made; nor can it be conceded that it is within the judicial function to inquire into the motives of a state legislature in passing a law, or of the chief magistrate of a State in enforcing it in the exercise of his discretion and judgment. Public policy forbids the imputation to authorized official action of any other than legitimate motives.

As might be expected in view of the nature of the jurisdiction, the cases are few in which the aid of the court has been sought in "controversies between two or more States." They are cited in Wisconsin v. Pelican Ins. Co., 127 U.S. 265, and are chiefly controversies as to boundaries.

In South Carolina v. Georgia, 93 U.S. 4, 14, a bill was filed for an injunction against the State of Georgia, the Secretary of War and others, from "obstructing or interrupting" the navigation of the Savannah River in violation of the compact entered into between the States of South Carolina and Georgia on the 24th day of April, 1787. The bill was dismissed because no unlawful obstruction of navigation was proved, but the question was expressly reserved whether "a State, when suing in this court for the prevention of a nuisance in a navigable river of the United States, must not aver and show that it will sustain some special and peculiar injury therefrom, and such as would enable a private person to maintain a similar action in another court."

So in Wisconsin v. Duluth, 96 U.S. 379, 382, the contention that the court could "take cognizance of no question which concerns alone the rights of a State in her political or sovereign character; that to sustain the suit she must have some proprietary interest which is affected by the defendant," was not passed upon.

In Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & Belmont Bridge Co., 13 How. 519, the court treated the suit as brought to protect the property of the State of Pennsylvania.

But in Debs, Petitioner, 158 U.S. 564, involving a case in the Circuit Court in which the United States had sought relief by injunction, it was observed: "That while it is not the province of the Government to interfere in any mere matter of private controversy between individuals, or to use its great powers to enforce the rights of one against another, yet, whenever the wrongs complained of are such as affect the public at large, and are in respect of matters which by the Constitution are intrusted to the care of the Nation, and concerning which the Nation owes the duty to all the citizens of securing to them their common rights, then the mere fact that the Government has no pecuniary interest in the controversy is not sufficient to exclude it from the courts or prevent it from taking measures therein to fully discharge those constitutional duties."

It is in this aspect that the bill before us is framed. Its gravamen is not a special and peculiar injury such as would sustain an action by a private person, but the State of Louisiana presents herself in the attitude of parens patrice, trustee, guardian or representative of all her citizens.

She does this from the point of view that the State of Texas is intentionally absolutely interdicting interstate commerce as respects the State of Louisiana by means of unnecessary and unreasonable quarantine regulations. Inasmuch as the vindication of the freedom of interstate commerce is not committed to the State of Louisiana, and that State is not engaged in such commerce, the cause of action must be regarded not as involving any infringement of the powers of the State of Louisiana, or any special injury to her property, but as asserting that the State is entitled to seek relief in this way because the matters complained of affect her citizens at large. Nevertheless if the case stated is not one presenting a controversy between these States, the exercise of original jurisdiction by this court as against the State of Texas cannot be maintained.

By Title XCII of the Revised Statutes of the State of Texas of 1895, "The Governor is empowered to issue his proclamation declaring quarantine on the coast, or elsewhere within this State, whenever in his judgment quarantine may become necessary, and such quarantine may continue for any length of time as in the judgment of the Governor the safety and security of the people may require." It is made the Governor's duty "to select and appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, from the most skilful physicians of the State of Texas, one physician who shall be known as health officer of the State, and shall from previous and active practice be familiar with yellow fever and pledged to the importance of both quarantine and sanitation." It was also provided that "whenever the Governor has reason to believe that the State of Texas is threatened at any point or place on the coast, border or elsewhere within the State with the introduction or dissemination of yellow fever contagion, or any other infections and contagious disease that can and should, in the opinion of the state health officer, be guarded against by state quarantine, he shall, by proclamation, immediately declare said quarantine against any and all such places, and direct the state health officer to promptly establish and enforce the restrictions and conditions imposed and indicated by said quarantine proclamation, and when from any cause the Governor cannot act, and the exigencies of the threatened danger require immediate action, the state health officer is empowered to declare quarantine as prescribed in this article, and maintain the same until the Governor shall officially take such action as he may see proper." And further, that the laws in regard to state quarantine should remain and be in full force and operation on the coast or elsewhere in the State as the Governor or health officer might direct, and be enforced as heretofore, "with such additional changes in station and general management as the Governor may think proper." Differences and disputes in regard to local quarantine were to be determined by the Governor, and all county and municipal quarantine was made subordinate to such rules and regulations as might be prescribed by the Governor or state health officer. It was made the duty of any county, town or city authority on the coast or elsewhere in the State, on the promulgation of the Governor's proclamation declaring quarantine, to provide suitable stations and employ competent physicians as health officers subject to the approval of the Governor, and in case of the failure of the authorities to do so, the Governor was empowered to act. Provision was made for the detention of persons, and vessels, and for the disinfection of vessels and their cargoes and passengers arriving at the ports of Texas from any infected port or district, and for rules and regulations in regard thereto, "the object of such rules and regulations being to provide safety for the public health of the State without unnecessary restriction upon commerce and travel."

It is not charged that this statute is invalid nor could it be if tested by its terms. While it is true that the power vested in Congress to regulate commerce among the States is a power complete in itself, acknowledging no limitations other than those prescribed in the Constitution, and that where the action of the States in the exercise of their reserved powers comes into collision with it, the latter must give way, yet it is also true that quarantine laws belong to that class of state legislation which is valid until displaced by Congress, and that such legislation has been expressly recognized by the laws of the United States almost from the beginning of the Government.

In Morgan Steamship Company v. Louisiana Board of Health, 118 U.S. 455, this was so held, and Mr. Justice Miller, delivering the opinion of the court, said: "The matter is one in which the rules that should govern it may in many respects be different in different localities and for that reason be better understood and more wisely established by the local authorities. The practice which should control a quarantine station on the Mississippi River, one hundred miles from the sea, may be widely and wisely different from that which is best for the harbor of New York." Hence, even if Congress had remained silent on the subject, it would not have followed that the exercise of the police power of the State in this regard, although necessarily operating on interstate commerce, would be therefore invalid. Although from the nature and subjects of the power of regulating commerce it must be ordinarily exercised by the National Government exclusively, this has not been held to be so where in relation to the particular subject-matter different rules might be suitable in different localities. At the same time, Congress could by affirmative action displace the local laws, substitute laws of its own, and thus correct any unjustifiable and oppressive exercise of power by state legislation.

The complaint here, however, is not that the laws of Texas in respect of quarantine are invalid, but that the health officer, by rules and regulations framed and put in force by him thereunder, places an embargo in fact on all interstate commerce between the State of Louisiana and the State of Texas, and that the Governor permits these rules and regulations to stand and be enforced, although he has the power to modify or change them. The bill is not rested merely on the ground of the imposition of an embargo without regard to motive, but charges that the rules and regulations are more stringent than called for by the particular exigency, and are purposely framed with the view to benefit the State of Texas, and the city of Galveston in particular, at the expense of the State of Louisiana, and especially of the city of New Orleans.

But in order that a controversy between States, justiciable in this court, can be held to exist, something more must be put forward than that the citizens of one State are injured by the maladministration of the laws of another. The States cannot make war, or enter into treaties, though they may, with the consent of Congress, make compacts and agreements. When there is no agreement, whose breach might create it, a controversy between States does not arise unless the action complained of is state action, and acts of state officers in abuse or excess of their powers cannot be laid hold of as in themselves committing one State to a distinct collision with a sister State.

In our judgment this bill does not set up facts which show that the State of Texas has so authorized or confirmed the alleged action of her health officer as to make it her own, or from which it necessarily follows that the two States are in controversy within the meaning of the Constitution.

Finally we are unable to hold that the bill may be maintained as presenting a case of controversy "between a State and citizens of another State."

Jurisdiction over controversies of that sort does not embrace the determination of political questions, and, where no controversy exists between States, it is not for this court to restrain the Governor of a State in the discharge of his executive functions in matter lawfully confided to his discretion and judgment. Nor can we accept the suggestion that the bill can be maintained as against the health officer alone on the theory that his conduct is in violation or in excess of a valid law of the State, as the remedy for that would clearly lie with the state authorities, and no refusal to fulfil their duty in that regard is set up. In truth it is difficult to see how on this record there could be a controversy between the State of Louisiana and the individual defendants without involving a controversy between the States, and such a controversy, as we have said, is not presented.

Demurrer sustained and bill dismissed.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE concurred in the result.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurring.

Taking the allegations of the bill to be true — as upon demurrer must be done — this suit cannot be regarded as one relating only to local regulations that incidentally affect interstate commerce and which the State may adopt and maintain in the absence of national regulations on the subject. On the contrary, if the allegations of the bill be true, the Texas authorities have gone beyond the necessities of the situation and established a quarantine system that is absolutely subversive of all commerce between Texas and Louisiana, particularly commerce between Texas and New Orleans. This court has often declared that the States have the power to protect the health of their people by police regulations directed to that end, and that regulations of that character are not to be disregarded because they may indirectly or incidentally affect interstate commerce. But when that principle has been announced it has always been said that the police power of a State cannot be so exerted as to obstruct foreign or interstate commerce beyond the necessity for its exercise, and that the courts must guard vigilantly against needless intrusion upon the field committed to Congress. Railroad Co. v. Husen, 95 U.S. 465, 470-473; Hennington v. Georgia, 163 U.S. 299, 313, 318; Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway v. Haber, 169 U.S. 613, 628, 630. The present suit proceeds distinctly on the ground that the regulations established by the authorities of Texas under its statute go beyond what is necessary to protect the people of that State against the introduction of infectious diseases and destroy the possibility of any commerce between New Orleans and Texas. Now, if Texas has no right, by its officers, to establish regulations that unreasonably or unnecessarily burden commerce between that State and Louisiana, and if the State of Louisiana is entitled, under the Constitution, to have the validity of such regulations tested in a judicial tribunal, then this court should put the defendants to their answer, and the cause should proceed to a final decree upon its merits.

But I am of opinion that the State of Louisiana, in its sovereign or corporate capacity, cannot bring any action in this court on account of the matters set forth in its bill. The case involves no property interest of that State. Nor is Louisiana charged with any duty, nor has it any power, to regulate interstate commerce. Congress alone has authority in that respect. When the Constitution gave this court jurisdiction of controversies between States, it did not thereby authorize a State to bring another State to the bar of this court for the purpose of testing the constitutionality of local statutes or regulations that do not affect the property or the powers of the complaining. State in its sovereign or corporate capacity, but which at most affect only the rights of individual citizens or corporations engaged in interstate commerce. The word "controversies" in the clauses extending the judicial powers of the United States to controversies "between two or more States," and to controversies "between a State and citizens of another State," and the word "party" in the clause declaring that this court shall have original jurisdiction of all cases "in which a State shall be party" refer to controversies or cases that are justiciable as between the parties thereto, and not to controversies or cases that do not involve either the property or powers of the State which complains in its sovereign or corporate capacity that its people are injuriously affected in their rights by the legislation of another State. The citizens of the complaining State may, in proper cases, invoke judicial protection of their property or rights when assailed by the laws and authorities of another State, but their State cannot, even with their consent, make their case its case and compel the offending State and its authorities to appear as defendants in an action brought in this court. If this be not so, we were wrong in New Hampshire v. Louisiana, 108 U.S. 76, in which case it was held that one State could not, by taking charge of demands or debts held by its citizens against another State, acquire the right to bring a suit in its name in this court against the debtor State.

I must express my inability to concur in that part of the opinion of the court relating to the clause of the Constitution extending the judicial power of the United States to controversies "between a State and citizens of another State." In reference to a controversy of that sort the court says that where none exist between States, it is not for this court to restrain the Governor of a State in the discharge of his executive functions in a matter confided to his discretion and judgment. But how can the Governor of a State be said to have an executive function to disregard the Constitution of the United States? How can his State authorize him to do that? It is one thing to compel the Governor of a State, by judicial order, to take affirmative action upon a designated subject. It is quite a different thing to say that being directly charged with the execution of a statute he may not be restrained by judicial orders from taking such action as he deems proper, even if what he is doing and proposes to do is forbidden by the supreme law of the land. His official character gives him no immunity from judicial authority exerted for the protection of the constitutional rights of others against his illegal action. He cannot be invested by his State with any discretion or judgment to violate the Constitution of the United States.

The court also says that it cannot accept the suggestion that the bill can be maintained as against the health officer alone on the theory that his conduct is in violation or in excess of a valid law of the State, as the remedy for that would lie with the state authorities, and no refusal to fulfil their duty in that regard is set up; and that it is difficult to see how on this record there could be a controversy between the State of Louisiana and the individual defendants without involving a controversy between the States. But the important question presented in this case — if the State of Louisiana in its sovereign capacity can sue at all in respect of the matters set out in the bill — is, whether the regulations being enforced by the health officer are in violation of the Constitution of the United States. The opinion of the court will be construed as meaning that even if Louisiana be entitled, in her sovereign capacity, to complain of those regulations as repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, it could not proceed in this court against the defendant health officer, and that its only remedy is to appeal to the authorities of Texas, that is, to the Governor of that State, who has power to control his co-defendant, the health officer, and who has approved the regulations in question. I am not aware of any decision supporting this view. If the regulations in question are in violation of the Constitution of the United States, the defendant health officer, I submit, may, without any previous appeal to the Governor of Texas, be restrained from enforcing them, either at the suit of individuals injuriously affected by their being enforced, or at the suit of Louisiana in its corporate capacity, provided that State could sue at all in respect of such matters.

Although unable to assent to the grounds upon which the court rests its opinion, I concur in the judgment dismissing the suit solely upon the ground that the State of Louisiana in its sovereign or corporate capacity cannot sue on account of the matters set out in the bill.

MR. JUSTICE BROWN concurring in the result.

I am not prepared to say that if the State of Texas had placed an embargo upon the entire commerce between Louisiana and Texas, the State of Louisiana would not be sufficiently representative of the great body of her citizens to maintain this bill.

In view of the solicitude which from time immemorial States have manifested for the interest of their own citizens; of the fact that wars are frequently waged by States in vindication of individual rights, of which the last war with England, the opium war of 1840 between Great Britain and China, and the war which is now being carried on in South Africa between Great Britain and the Transvaal Republic, are all notable examples; of the further fact that treaties are entered into for the protection of individual rights, that international tribunals are constantly being established for the settlement of rights of private parties, it would seem a strange anomaly if a State of this Union, which is prohibited by the Constitution from levying war upon another State, could not invoke the authority of this court by suit to raise an embargo which had been established by another State against its citizens and their property.

An embargo, though not an act of war, is frequently resorted to as preliminary to a declaration of war, and may be treated under certain circumstances as a sufficient casus belli. The case made by the bill is the extreme one of a total stoppage of all commerce between the most important city in Louisiana and the entire State of Texas; and while I fully agree that resort cannot be had to this court to vindicate the rights of individual citizens, or any particular number of individuals, where a State has assumed to prohibit all kinds of commerce with the chief city of another State, I think her motive for doing so is the proper subject of judicial inquiry.

It is true that individual citizens, whose rights are seriously affected by a system of non-intercourse, might, perhaps, maintain a bill of this kind; but to make the remedy effective it would be necessary to institute a multiplicity of suits, to carry on a litigation practically against a State in the courts of that State, and to assume the entire pecuniary burden of such litigation, when all the inhabitants of the complaining State are more or less interested in the result.

But the objection to the present bill is that it does not allege the stoppage of all commerce between the two States, but between the city of New Orleans and the State of Texas. The controversy is not one in which the citizens of Louisiana generally can be assumed to be interested, but only the citizens of New Orleans, and it therefore seems to me that the State is not the proper party complainant.


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