MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The New York Supreme Court, acting under authority of § 795 of the New York Civil Practice Act, made an order authorizing respondent, as a judgment creditor, to maintain a suit under the Tucker Act of March 3, 1887, 24 Stat. 505, § 24 (20) of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 41 (20), to recover damages from the United States for breach of its contract with the judgment debtor. The question for decision is whether a United States District Court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The order authorized respondent, who had recovered a judgment against Kaiser in the New York Supreme Court for $5,567.22, to bring suit against the Government to recover for breach of its contract with Kaiser for the construction of a postoffice building. The order
Respondent brought the present suit against the United States and Kaiser in the District Court for Eastern New York. By his complaint he set up the judgment and the order of the state court, the breach of contract by the United States, and the consequent damage to Kaiser in the sum of $14,448.49, and prayed judgment in the sum of $10,000. The order of the District Court dismissing the complaint for want of jurisdiction was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 112 F.2d 587, which held that under Rule 17 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure respondent's "capacity to sue" was governed by the law of New York, which was his domicile; and that the order of the state court had conferred authority upon respondent to maintain the suit, the United States being a "person indebted" within the meaning of § 795 of the Civil Practice Act, which sanctions orders by the state court authorizing a suit by a judgment creditor against a "person . . . indebted to the judgment debtor." We granted certiorari, 311 U.S. 640, the question of the jurisdiction of the District Court under the Tucker Act being of public importance.
The United States, as sovereign, is immune from suit save as it consents to be sued, United States v. Thompson, 98 U.S. 486; United States v. Lee, 106 U.S. 196; Kansas v. United States, 204 U.S. 331; Minnesota v. United States, 305 U.S. 382, 387; Keifer & Keifer v. Reconstruction Finance Corp., 306 U.S. 381, 388; United States v. Shaw, 309 U.S. 495 (see cases cited in The Pesaro, 277 F. 473, 474, et seq.), and the terms of its consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The Court of Claims is a legislative, not a constitutional, court. Its judicial power is derived not from the Judiciary Article of the Constitution, but from the Congressional power "to pay the debts . . . of the United States," which it is free to exercise through judicial as well as non-judicial agencies. See Williams v. United States, 289 U.S. 553, 569, 579; Ex parte Bakelite Corporation, 279 U.S. 438, 452, et seq. It is for this reason, and because of the power of the sovereign to attach conditions to its consent to be sued, that Congress, despite the Seventh Amendment, may dispense with a jury trial in suits brought in the Court of Claims. McElrath v. United States, 102 U.S. 426; Williams v. United States, supra, 570, 571; Ex parte Bakelite Corporation, supra, 453.
Except as Congress has consented there is no jurisdiction
We think it plain that the present suit could not have been maintained in the Court of Claims because that court is without jurisdiction of any suit brought against private parties and because adjudication of the right or capacity of respondent to proceed with the suit upon the contract of the judgment debtor with the United States is prerequisite to any recovery upon the Government contract. As the court below recognized, the judgment debtor, who is made a necessary party by § 795 of the Civil Practice Act, in any suit brought pursuant to the order of the state court is entitled to attack the validity of the order and of the judgment on which it
But the question remains whether such a suit is nevertheless within the jurisdiction conferred by the Tucker Act on the district courts. The Court of Appeals thought that the obstacles to joining private parties, as parties defendant, in suits against the Government are procedural only, and that while no procedure is provided whereby the Court of Claims can adjudicate the rights of private parties in suits against the Government, that court is nevertheless free to adopt such a procedure. Cf. 28 U.S.C. § 263. In any case it thought such procedure has now been made applicable to suits in the district courts by the new rules of civil practice. It concluded that since the District Court under the Tucker Act has jurisdiction to adjudicate claims against the United States and by virtue of other provisions of the Judicial Code has jurisdiction to adjudicate the issues between respondent and the judgment debtor, the Rules of Civil Procedure authorize the exercise of both jurisdictions in a single suit.
This conclusion presupposes that the United States, either by the rules of practice or by the Tucker Act or both, has given its consent to be sued in litigations in which issues between the plaintiff and third persons are to be adjudicated. But we think that nothing in the new rules of civil practice so far as they may be applicable in suits brought in district courts under the Tucker Act authorizes the maintenance of any suit against the United States to which it has not otherwise consented. An authority conferred upon a court to make rules of
Nor with due regard to the words of § 2 of the Tucker Act and to its legislative history can we say that the United States has consented to the maintenance of suits against the Government in the district courts which could not be maintained in the Court of Claims. The section must be interpreted in the light of its function in giving consent of the Government to be sued, which consent, since it is a relinquishment of a sovereign immunity, must be strictly interpreted. Schillinger v. United States, 155 U.S. 163; Price v. United States, 174 U.S. 373; United States v. Michel, 282 U.S. 656; United States v. Shaw, 309 U.S. 495; United States v. U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 309 U.S. 506; cf. Federal Housing Administration v. Burr, 309 U.S. 242, 247. Section 2, authorizing suits against the Government in district courts, is an integral part of the statute, other sections of which revised and enlarged the classes of claims against the United States which could be litigated in the Court of Claims. It was the jurisdiction thus defined and established for that court which was extended by the section to the district courts in the specified instances, for in consenting to suits against the Government in the district courts, Congress prescribed that the jurisdiction thus conferred should be "concurrent" with that of the Court of Claims.
Construing the statutory language with that conservatism which is appropriate in the case of a waiver of sovereign immunity, and in the light of the history of the
The present litigation well illustrates the embarrassments which would attend the defense of suits brought against the Government if the jurisdiction of district courts were not deemed to be as restricted as is that of the Court of Claims. The Government, to protect its interests, must not only litigate the claim upon which it has consented to be sued, but must make certain that respondent's right, as against the judgment debtor, to maintain the suit is properly adjudicated. And since the alleged claim for damages is larger than the $10,000 jurisdictional amount the Government must either be subjected to successive suits for partial recoveries of the amount due or must make certain that respondent has legal authority to relinquish the judgment debtor's claim in excess of $10,000, and that this has been accomplished by the limitation of his demand for judgment to that amount. See Franklin v. United States, 308 U.S. 516; Otis Elevator