MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.
Transportation Act, 1920, February 28, 1920, c. 91, § 310, par. a, 41 Stat. 456, 472, authorizes the Railroad Labor Board, "for the efficient administration of the functions vested in" it, to require by subpoena "the attendance of any witness . . from any place in the United States at any designated place of hearing, and the taking of a deposition before any person having power to administer oaths." Paragraph `b' provides: "In case of failure to comply with any subpoena [to testify] or in case of the contumacy of any witness appearing before the Labor Board, the Board may invoke the aid of any United States district court. Such court may thereupon order the witness to comply with the requirements of such subpoena, or to give evidence touching the matter in question, as the case may be."
Pursuant to paragraph `a', the Board issued a subpoena to Robertson, a citizen and inhabitant of Cleveland, Ohio, commanding him to appear at its offices in Chicago, Illinois, on a day named, to testify concerning a dispute then being enquired into. The subpoena was served upon
The bill prayed that Robertson, the sole defendant, be ordered to appear before the Labor Board "at a time and place to be fixed by" it and make "full answer to any and all pertinent questions relating" to the matter under investigation, and for any other proper relief. The court issued, in the form customary in equity, a summons, directing the defendant to appear and answer. This summons was likewise served upon Robertson personally at Cleveland by the United States marshal for the Northern District of Ohio. By his attorney he again appeared specially and moved to quash the service on the ground that, being an inhabitant of Ohio and served there, he was not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal court for Illinois. The motion was overruled; Robertson then moved to dismiss the petition for lack of jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the suit; this motion was also overruled; Robertson declined to plead further; and a final decree was entered directing him "to appear before the Railroad Labor Board, upon due notice by said board, at a time and place to be designated therein, there to testify, to give evidence, and to give full, true and complete answer and response to any and all pertinent and relevant questions then and there propounded to him" concerning the subject matter of the enquiry. 3 Fed. (2d) 488. The case is here on appeal under § 238 of the Judicial Code, the questions of jurisdiction having been duly certified. Whether the court acquired jurisdiction over Robertson is the only question requiring decision.
In a civil suit in personam jurisdiction over the defendant, as distinguished from venue, implies, among other things, either voluntary appearance by him or service of process upon him at a place where the officer serving it has authority to execute a writ of summons. Under the general provisions of law, a United States district court cannot issue process beyond the limits of the district, Harkness v. Hyde, 98 U.S. 476; Ex parte Graham, 3 Wn. 456; and a defendant in a civil suit can be subjected to its jurisdiction in personam only by service within the district. Toland v. Sprague, 12 Pet. 300, 330. Such was the general rule established by the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789, c. 20, § 11, 1 Stat. 73, 79, in accordance with the practice at the common law. Piquet v. Swan,
Section 51 of the Judicial Code is a general provision regulating venue. The part pertinent here is that, with certain inapplicable exceptions, "no civil suit shall be brought in any district court against any person by any original process or proceeding in any other district than that whereof he is an inhabitant."
Congress has also made a few clearly expressed and carefully guarded exceptions to the general rule of jurisdiction in personam stated above. In one instance, the Credit Mobilier Act, March 3, 1873, c. 226, § 4, 17 Stat. 485, 509, it was provided that writs of subpoena to bring in parties defendant should run into any district. This broad power was to be exercised at the instance of the Attorney General in a single case in which, in order to give complete relief, it was necessary to join in one suit defendants living in different States. United States v. Union Pacific Railroad, 98 U.S. 569. Under similar circumstances, but only for the period of three years, authority was granted generally by Act of September 19, 1922, c. 345, 42 Stat. 849, to institute a civil suit by, or on behalf of, the United States, either in the district of the residence of one of the necessary defendants or in that in which the cause of action arose; and to serve the process upon a defendant in any district. The Sherman Act, July 2, 1890, c. 647, § 5, 26 Stat. 209, 210, provides that when "it shall appear to the court" in which a proceeding to restrain violations of the Act is pending "that the ends of justice require that other parties should be brought before the court" it may cause them to be summoned although they reside in some other district. The Clayton Act, October 15, 1914, c. 323, § 15, 38 Stat. 730, 737, contains a like provision. But no act has come to our attention in which such power has been conferred in a proceeding in a circuit or district court
As the Railroad Labor Board is charged generally with the adjustment of disputes between carriers and their employees, it may prove desirable to hold hearings at any place within the United States; and power to do so was expressly conferred. The Board may demand answers or the production of documentary evidence from one who attends such a hearing. The contumacy of a witness
The Commerce Court created by Act of June 18, 1910, c. 309, 36 Stat. 539, could issue process through the United States. P. 541. Upon its repeal by Act of October 22, 1913, c. 32, 38 Stat. 208, 219, 220, it was provided that the process of the applicable district court might "run, be served, and be returnable anywhere in the United States"; but the venue of suits in the district courts was narrowly limited. See Illinois Central R.R. Co. v. Public Utilities Comm., 245 U.S. 493; Skinner & Eddy Corp. v. United States, 249 U.S. 557, 563; Peoria & Pekin Union Ry. Co. v. United States, 263 U.S. 528, 535. Compare Vicksburg, etc. Ry. Co. v. Anderson-Tully Co., 236 U.S. 408; Graustein v. Rutland R. Co., 256 Fed. 409.