MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Burke Construction Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Missouri, brought an action at law against petitioners in the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas on February 16, 1920. The jurisdiction of that court was invoked upon the ground of diversity of citizenship, the petitioners being citizens of the State of Arkansas. The action was for breach of a contract between the parties, whereby the Construction Company had engaged to pave certain streets in the town of Texarkana. A trial was had before the court and a jury which resulted in a disagreement.
Subsequent to the commencement of the action by the Construction Company, viz., on March 19, 1920, petitioners instituted a suit in equity against that Company in a state chancery court of the State of Arkansas, upon the same contract, joining as defendants the sureties on the bond which had been given for the faithful performance of the contract. The bill in the latter suit alleged that the Construction Company had abandoned its contract and judgment was sought against the sureties as well as against the company. The bill asked an accounting with reference to the work which had been done and which remained to be done under the contract, and prayed judgment in the sum of $88,000.
The equity suit was removed to the United States District Court upon the petition of the Construction Company upon the ground that the Company and the petitioners were citizens of different States and that the controversy between them was a separable controversy, and upon the further ground that a federal question was involved. Petitioners moved to remand. The District Court sustained the motion and the equity suit was thereupon remanded to the State Chancery Court, where it is still pending.
After the mistrial of the action at law in the United States District Court, the Construction Company filed a bill of complaint as a dependent bill to its action at law, by which it sought to enjoin the petitioners from further prosecuting the suit in equity in the State Chancery Court. The United States District Court denied the injunction and an appeal was taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. That court reversed the decision of the District Court and remanded the case with instructions to issue an injunction against the prosecution of the suit in equity in the State Chancery Court. From that decree the case comes here upon writ of certiorari.
Section 265 of the Judicial Code provides: "The writ of injunction shall not be granted by any court of the
This Court in Covell v. Heyman, 111 U.S. 176, 182, said:
"The forbearance which courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction, administered under a single system, exercise towards each other, whereby conflicts are avoided, by avoiding interference with the process of each other, is a principle of comity, with perhaps no higher sanction than the utility which comes from concord; but between State Courts and those of the United States, it is something more. It is a principle of right and of law, and therefore, of necessity. It leaves nothing to discretion or mere convenience. These courts do not belong to the same system,
And the same rule applies where a person is in custody under the authority of the court of another jurisdiction. Ponzi v. Fessenden, 258 U.S. 254.
But a controversy is not a thing, and a controversy over a mere question of personal liability does not involve the possession or control of a thing, and an action brought to enforce such a liability does not tend to impair or defeat the jurisdiction of the court in which a prior action for the same cause is pending. Each court is free to proceed in its own way and in its own time, without reference to the proceedings in the other court. Whenever a judgment is rendered in one of the courts and pleaded in the other, the effect of that judgment is to be determined by the application of the principles of res adjudicata by the court in which the action is still pending in the orderly exercise of its jurisdiction, as it would determine any other question of fact or law arising in the progress of the case. The rule, therefore, has become generally established that where the action first brought is in personam and seeks only a personal judgment, another action for the same cause in another jurisdiction is not precluded. Stanton v. Embrey, 93 U.S. 548; Gordon v. Gilfoil, 99 U.S. 168, 178; Hunt v. New York Cotton Exchange, 205 U.S. 322, 339; Insurance Company v.
In Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co. v. Wabash R.R. Co., supra, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said:
"It is settled that, when a state court and a court of the United States may each take jurisdiction of a matter, the tribunal whose jurisdiction first attaches holds it, to the exclusion of the other, until its duty is fully performed, and the jurisdiction involved is exhausted. . . . The rule is not only one of comity, to prevent unseemly conflicts between courts whose jurisdiction embraces the same subject and persons, but between state courts and those of the United States it is something more. `It is a principle of right and law, and therefore of necessity. It leaves nothing to discretion or mere convenience.' Covell v. Heyman, 111 U.S. 176. The rule is not limited to cases where property has actually been seized under judicial process before a second suit is instituted in another court, but it applies as well where suits are brought to enforce liens against specific property, to marshal assets, administer trusts, or liquidate insolvent estates, and in all suits of a like nature. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. v. Lake Street El. R. Co., 177 U.S. 51; Merritt v. Steel Barge Co., 24 C.C.A. 530, 79 Fed. 228, 49 U.S. App. 85. The rule is limited to
In Stewart Land Co. v. Arthur, supra, where the plaintiff sued the defendant upon two checks and a promissory note in the United States District Court, and subsequently brought an action against him upon the same instruments in a state court and an injunction was sought against the latter action, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit disposed of the matter as follows:
"In the Iowa case there was no custody of property which might lawfully be protected by the injective process. It was purely in personam. The pendency of two or more such actions between the same parties upon the same causes of action in different jurisdictions gives to the court in which the first was brought no power to enjoin the prosecution of the others. Each may take its normal course."
Prior to the decision in the instant case, as an examination of the foregoing authorities, and others which might be added, will show, the rule was firmly established that the pendency in a federal court of an action in personam was neither ground for abating a subsequent action in a state court nor for the issuance of an injunction against its prosecution. In the case now under consideration, however, the court below held otherwise, upon the ground
It is said further that if the second suit may be prosecuted so as to secure an adjudication in a state court before the action of the federal court can be adjudicated, then the federal court's adjudication would be made futile because before it is rendered the controversy will have become res adjudicata by the adjudication of the state court. Such a result, it is urged, cannot be allowed because the Construction Company brought its action in the federal court in pursuance "of a grant of this right in the Constitution and the acts of Congress" and it may not be deprived of that constitutional right by a subsequent suit in a state court.
The force of the cases above cited is sought to be broken by the suggestion that in none of them was this question of constitutional right presented or considered.
The right of a litigant to maintain an action in a federal court on the ground that there is a controversy between citizens of different States is not one derived from the Constitution of the United States, unless in a very indirect sense. Certainly it is not a right granted by the Constitution. The applicable provisions, so far as necessary to be quoted here, are contained in Article III. Section 1 of that Article provides, "The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." By § 2 of the same Article it is provided that the judicial power shall extend to certain designated cases and controversies and, among them, "to controversies . . . between citizens of different States. . . ." The effect of these provisions is not to vest jurisdiction in the inferior courts over the designated
The decree of the Circuit Court of Appeals is therefore reversed and the case remanded to the District Court for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.