This is an application for a writ of error to the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia under the new Judicial Code. Act of March 3, 1911, c. 231. 36 Stat. 1087. The Court of Appeals denied the writ. Thereupon application was made to the Chief Justice. He referred it to the court. Briefs were called for and one was submitted by the applicants. It now is to be decided whether the writ should be allowed.
By § 250 of the Code any final judgment or decree of the Court of Appeals may be reexamined `in the following cases: . . . Sixth. In cases in which the construction of any law of the United States is drawn in question by the defendant.' This is the clause relied upon. The case was a suit for the condemnation of land brought by the Commissioners under a special act of
We do not stop to consider whether any question of construction properly can be said to have been raised, rather than a question of general law in the application of words that were colorless so far as the point in controversy was concerned. It might not be just to assume that the general averment of the application was not justified by exceptions more clearly turning on the construction of the local laws than the example given in the brief. The ground on which the writ was refused by the Court of Appeals was that the words quoted from § 250 should not be construed to apply to the purely local laws of the District, and with that view we agree.
Of course there is no doubt that the special act of Congress was in one sense a law of the United States. It well may be that it would fall within the meaning of the same words in the third clause of the same section: `Cases involving the constitutionality of any law of the United States.' Parsons v. District of Columbia, 170 U.S. 45. But it needs no authority to show that the same phrase may have different meanings in different connections.
A well-known example of construing a statute not to include a case that indisputably was within its literal meaning, but was believed not to be within the aim of Congress, is Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457; we may refer further to Cochran v. Montgomery County, ubi supra. In the case at bar if the words `construction of any law of the United States' are confined to the construction of laws having general application throughout the United States the jurisdiction given to this court by § 250 is confined to what naturally and properly belongs to it. If they are construed the other way it would have been less arbitrary to provide that every question of law could be taken up. That they were not to be understood as the applicant contends is to be inferred not only from the sense of the thing but from clause first: `In cases where the jurisdiction of the trial court is in issue,' with provision for certifying that question alone. It is difficult to imagine a case in which the jurisdiction of the trial court is in issue where the construction of a special law of the United States would not be drawn in question.
Writ of error denied.