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PITNEY, J., dissenting.
the power of the States to legislate and change the rules of the common law in this respect as in others; but in the absence of such legislation the question is one determinable only by the general principles of that law. Further than that, it is a question in which the nation as a whole is interested. It enters into the commerce of the country. Commerce between the States is a matter of national regulation, and to establish it as such was one of the principal causes which led to the adoption of our Constitution.”
In other words, the general effect of the question upon interstate commerce rendered it one of the class that called for the application of general principles; nevertheless, state legislation would be controlling-in the absence of valid legislation by Congress, of course.
In Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Ry. Co. v. Solan, supra, the doctrine was concisely stated by Mr. Justice Gray, speaking for the court, as follows (169 U. S. 136): “The question of the right of a railroad corporation to contract for exemption from liability for its own negligence is, indeed, like other questions affecting its liability as a common carrier of goods or passengers, one of those questions not of merely local law, but of commercial law or general jurisprudence, upon which this court, in the absence of express statute regulating the subject, will exercise its own judgment, uncontrolled by the decisions of the courts of the State in which the cause of action arises. But the law to be applied is none the less the law of the State; and may be changed by its legislature, except so far as restrained by the constitution of the State or by the Constitution or laws of the United States."
I freely concede the authority of Congress to modify the rules of maritime law so far as they are administered in the federal courts, and to make them binding upon the courts of the States so far as they affect interstate or international relations, or regulate "commerce with foreign
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes." What I contend is that the Constitution does not, proprio vigore, impose the maritime law upon the States except to the extent that the admiralty jurisdiction was exclusive of the courts of common law before the Constitution; that is to say, in the prize jurisdiction, and the peculiar maritime process in rem; and that as to civil actions in personam having a maritime origin, the courts of the States are left free, except as Congress by legislation passed within its legitimate sphere of action may control them; and that Congress, so far from enacting legislation of this character, has from the beginning left the state courts at liberty to apply their own systems of law in those cases where prior to the Constitution they had concurrent jurisdiction with the admiralty, for the saving clause in the Judiciary Act necessarily has this effect.
Surely it cannot be that the mere grant of judicial power in admiralty cases, with whatever general authority over the subject matter can be raised by implication, can, in the absence of legislation, have a greater effect in limiting the legislative powers of the States than that which resulted from the express grant to Congress of an authority to regulate interstate commerce,—the limited effect of which, in the absence of legislation by Congress, we already have seen. The prevailing opinion properly holds that, under the circumstances of the case at bar, although plaintiff in error was engaged in interstate commerce, and the deceased met his death while employed in such commerce, the provisions of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (April 22, 1908, c. 149, 35 Stat. 65) do not apply, because they cover only railroad operations and work connected therewith, whereas the deceased was employed upon an ocean-going ship. In effect it holds also that in the absence of applicable legislation by Congress the express grant of authority to regulate such commerce, as contained in the Constitution, does not exclude the operation of the
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
244 U. S.
state law. It seems to me a curious inconsistency to hold, at the same time, that the rules of the maritime law exclude the operation of a state statute without action by Congress, although the Constitution contains no express grant of authority to establish rules of maritime law, and the authority must be implied from the mere constitutional grant of judicial power over the subject matter; and most remarkable that this result is reached in the face of the fact that the judicial power in cases of admiralty jurisdiction has been put into effect by Congress subject to an express reservation of the previous concurrent jurisdiction of the courts of law over actions of this character. This, besides ignoring the reservation, gives a greater potency to an implied power than to a power expressly conferred.
The effect of the present decision cannot logically be confined to cases that arise in interstate or foreign commerce. It seems to be thought that the admiralty jurisdiction of the United States has limits coextensive with the authority of Congress to regulate commerce. But this is not true. The civil jurisdiction in admiralty in cases ex contractu is dependent upon the subject matter; in cases ex delicto it is dependent upon locality. In cases of the latter class, if the cause of action arise upon navigable waters of the United States, even though it be upon a vessel engaged in commerce wholly intrastate, or upon one not engaged in commerce at all, or (probably) not upon any vessel, the maritime courts have jurisdiction. Propeller Genessee Chief v. Fitzhugh, 12 How. 443, 452; The Propeller Commerce, 1 Black, 574,578, 579; The Belfast, 7 Wall. 624, 636, 638, 640; Ex parte Boyer, 109 U. S. 629, 632; In re Garnett, 141 U. S. 1, 15, 17. It results that if the constitutional grant of judicial power to the United States in cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction is held by inference to make the rules of decision that prevail in the courts of admiralty binding proprio vigore upon
244 U. S.
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
state courts exercising a concurrent jurisdiction in cases of maritime origin, the effect will be to deprive the several States of their police power over navigable waters lying wholly within their respective limits, and of their authority to regulate their intrastate commerce so far as it is carried upon navigable waters.
The following additional consideration is entitled to great weight: The same Judiciary Act which in its 9th section conferred upon the district courts of the United States original cognizance of civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, saving to suitors in all cases the right of a common-law remedy where the common law is competent to give it, in its 25th section allowed a writ of error from this court to review the final judgment or decree of a state court of last resort resulting from a decision overruling any special claim of right, privilege, or exemption based upon the construction of any clause of the Constitution or statutes of the United States. By later legislation the review was broadened (Act of February 5, 1867, c. 28, § 2, 14 Stat. 385, 386; $ 709, Rev. Stats.; $ 237, Jud. Code), and by recent legislation the writ of certiorari has been substituted for the writ of error in many cases (Act of September 6, 1916, c. 448, 39 Stat. 726). But, at all times, the right to review in this court the decisions of the state courts upon questions of federal law has existed, so that if by the true construction of Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution, or of § 9 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, it had been the right of parties suing or sued in state courts upon causes of action of a maritime nature to insist that their cases should be determined according to the rules of decision found in the law maritime, this right or immunity might have been asserted as a federal right, and its denial made the ground of a review of the resulting judgment, under a writ of error (or, now, a writ of certiorari), from this court to the state court of last resort. Yet, until the present case, and others submitted
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
at the same time, the reported decisions of this court show not a trace of any such question raised. I can conceive of no stronger evidence to prove that from the foundation of the government until the present time it has been the opinion of the Bar and of the Judiciary, in the state courts as well as in the courts of the United States, that it was not the right of parties suing or sued in state courts of law or equity upon causes of action arising out of maritime affairs, to have them decided according to the principles that would have controlled the decision had the suits been brought in the admiralty courts.
There is no doubt that, throughout the entire life of the nation under the Constitution, state courts not only have exercised concurrent jurisdiction with the courts of admiralty in actions ex contractu arising out of maritime transactions, and in actions ex delicto arising upon the navigable waters, but that in exercising such jurisdiction they have, without challenge until now, adopted as rules of decision their local laws and statutes, recognizing no obligation of a federal nature to apply the law maritime. State courts of last resort, in several recent cases, have had occasion to consider the precise contention now made by plaintiff in error, and upon full consideration have rejected it. Lindstrom v. Mutual Steamship Co., 132 Minnesota, 328; North Pacific S. S. Co. v. Industrial Accident Commission (Cal.), 163 Pac. Rep. 199; Kennerson v. Thames Towboat Co., 89 Connecticut, 367, 373. See also Matter of Walker v. Clyde Steamship Co., 215 N. Y. 529, 531; Matter of Jensen v. Southern Pacific Co., 215 N. Y. 514 (this case). I have found no case to the contrary except a decision by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Schuede v. Zenith S. S. Co., 216 Fed. Rep. 566, now under consideration by this court. The reasoning is unsatisfactory, and it was repudiated in Keithley v. North Pacific S. S. Co., 232 Fed. Rep. 255, 259.
I may remark, in closing, that there is no confiict be