Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.
The first question which the record before us presents is, whether the Circuit Court of the District of Maryland, sitting as a court of chancery, could entertain jurisdiction of
1. Can a court of chancery render a decree upon a bill of this character without having before it, as parties to the suit, some person capable of representing their interest?
2. And secondly, if it cannot, did the contrivance resorted to, of conveying to S.C. Ridgely and Proud, taken in connection with the admitted facts on that subject, enable the court to take jurisdiction of the case?
The learning on the subject of parties to suits in chancery is copious, and within a limited extent, the principles which govern their introduction are flexible. There is a class of persons having such relations to the matter in controversy, merely formal or otherwise, that while they may be called proper parties, the court will take no account of the omission to make them parties. There is another class of persons whose relations to the suit are such, that if their interest and their absence are formally brought to the attention of the court, it will require them to be made parties if within its jurisdiction, before deciding the case. But if this cannot be done, it will proceed to administer such relief as may be in its power, between the parties before it. And there is a third class, whose interests in the subject-matter of the suit, and in the relief sought, are so bound up with that of the other parties, that their legal presence as parties to the proceeding is an absolute necessity, without which the court cannot proceed. In such cases the court refuses to entertain the suit, when these parties cannot be subjected to its jurisdiction.
This class cannot be better described than in the language of this court, in Shields v. Barrow,
This language aptly describes the character of the interest of the Ridgelys, in the land of which partition is sought in this suit, and in the account which is asked for, of rents and profits. If a decree is made, which is intended to bind them, it is manifestly unjust to do this when they are not parties to the suit, and have no opportunity to be heard. But as the decree cannot bind them, the court cannot for that very reason afford the relief asked, to the other parties.
If, for instance, the decree should partition the land and state an account, the particular pieces of land allotted to the parties before the court, would still be undivided as to these parties, whose interest in each piece would remain as before the partition. And they could at any time apply to the proper court, and ask a repartition of the whole tract, unaffected by the decree in this case, because they can be bound by no decree to which they are not parties. The same observations apply to any account stated by the court, of rents and profits, and to any decree settling the amount due on that score.
Nor does the act of February 28th, 1839, relieve the case of the difficulty. That act has been frequently construed in this court, and perhaps never more pertinently to the matter in hand, than in the case already cited, of Shields v. Barrow.
The court there says, in relation to this act, that "it does not affect any case where persons having an interest are not joined, because their citizenship is such that their joinder would defeat the jurisdiction, and so far as it touches suits in equity, we understand it to be no more than a legislative affirmance of the rule previously established by the cases of Cameron v. McRoberts,
These views do not render the act of 1839 either useless or ineffectual, for while it is true that in reference to parties in chancery proceedings, that act only pronounced the rule which this court had previously asserted, its beneficial influence in cases of common law cognizance are often called into exercise. It is a rule of the common law, that where one of several joint obligors in a contract, whether verbal or in writing, is sued alone, he can plead the non-joinder of the other obligors in abatement, and in cases where the joint obligors not sued were citizens of the same State with the plaintiff, or were residents of some other district than that where the suit was brought, the jurisdiction of the court was defeated. This very serious difficulty was remedied by the act of 1839; for in such cases the plaintiff can now prosecute his suit to judgment against any one of such joint obligors, in any district where he may be found. Of this class of cases are Inbusch v. Farwell,
We are, therefore, of opinion that the Circuit Court could render no decree on the merits of this case, without having rightfully before it some person representing the interest of the Ridgelys.
This leads us to the second inquiry connected with the jurisdiction of the case, namely, whether the conveyances to Proud and S.C. Ridgely, who were citizens of Maryland, and were made defendants, removed the difficulty growing out of the residence of the Ridgelys in the District of Columbia?
In the case of Hepburn v. Ellzey,
If the conveyance by the Ridgelys of the District to S.C. Ridgely of Maryland had really transferred the interest of the former to the latter, although made for the avowed purpose of enabling the court to entertain jurisdiction of the case, it would have accomplished that purpose. McDonald v. Smalley,
It is not possible to see how the case before us can be taken out of the principle here laid down. We are therefore of opinion that the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction of the case.
It follows that the decree of that court which, on its face,
Mr. Justice CLIFFORD, dissenting.
Unable to concur in the opinion of the court, I will proceed to state very briefly the reasons of my dissent.
Consent, I agree, cannot give jurisdiction in a case where it is not conferred by the Constitution and the laws of Congress, but the judicial power as described in the Constitution, extends in express terms to controversies between citizens of different States.
By the eleventh section of the Judiciary Act it is also provided that the Circuit Courts shall have exclusive cognizance, concurrent with the courts of the several States, of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity where the matter in dispute exceeds, exclusive of costs, the sum or value of five hundred dollars, and the suit is between a citizen of the State where the suit is brought and a citizen of another State.
Complainant is a citizen of Delaware, and the respondents are citizens of Maryland, which brings the case within the express words of the Judiciary Act and of the Constitution.
Express decision of this court in Hagan v. Walker et al.,
The court may still adjudicate between the parties who are properly before it, and the rule is that the absent parties are not to be concluded or affected by the decree. Cases may arise, say the court, in which the court cannot adjudicate
Non-joinder of an absent party in such a case, not only does not defeat the jurisdiction of the court, but it does not raise any such question under the Constitution and the law of Congress, because the parties before the court being citizens of different States the jurisdiction of the court is undeniable. Relief will not be granted in such a case where it appears that the interests of absent parties will be injuriously affected; but the question is not one whether a Federal court has jurisdiction to hear and determine the cause. On the contrary, it is a question of equity practice as to parties, common to all courts exercising equity powers.
Such an objection is never allowed to prevail if the court can protect the interest of the absent party, or where it appears in the record that due notice was given to him, and that he has formally waived the objection. The maxim volenti non fit injuria applies in such a case, and consequently, the difficulty may be remedied by a conveyance or stipulation appearing in the record. Courts of equity refuse to grant relief in such cases, not because they have not jurisdiction, but only because the right of absent parties interested in the subject-matter may be injuriously affected. Hence the rule is that, if the court can grant relief without affecting such rights, or can protect those rights in the decree, the court will not dismiss the suit, and the same rule is applicable if it appears in the record that the absent parties have full knowledge of the controversy and that they have in due form of law waived all objections to the prosecution of the suit. Unless these views are correct, then it is clear that the act of the twenty-eighth of February, 1839, is unconstitutional and void, as no one will pretend that Congress can extend the jurisdiction of the Federal courts
Under the Constitution and the Judiciary Act the conditions of jurisdiction are the same in a suit in equity as at common law, and it is not possible to distinguish the one from the other without adding language to those provisions which neither the framers of the Constitution nor Congress ever employed.
For these reasons I am of the opinion that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction of the case, but the majority of the court are of a different opinion, which renders it unnecessary to enter upon the consideration of the merits.
The CHIEF JUSTICE and FIELD, J., also dissented.