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POPE ET AL. v. ATLANTIC COAST LINE RAILROAD CO.

decided: April 27, 1953.

POPE ET AL
v.
ATLANTIC COAST LINE RAILROAD CO.



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF GEORGIA.

Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Jackson, Burton, Clark, Minton

Author: VINSON

[ 345 U.S. Page 380]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Invoking the Federal Employers' Liability Act,*fn1 petitioner sued his employer, an interstate railroad company, for injuries sustained during the course of his employment, allegedly through respondent's negligence. The injury occurred in Ben Hill County, Georgia, which was the place of petitioner's employment as well as the place of his residence. But petitioner filed his complaint in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama; jurisdiction and venue were grounded on § 6 of the Act.*fn2

[ 345 U.S. Page 381]

     Respondent then initiated a suit in equity in the Superior Court of Ben Hill County and asked that petitioner be restrained from prosecuting his action in Alabama. Respondent's petition to the Ben Hill County Court contained allegations that petitioner had deliberately sought to "harass" his employer by subjecting it to the burden and expense of defending the claim in a distant forum, far from the scene of the accident and the residences of the witnesses.

The trial court sustained a general demurrer to this petition. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed -- holding that Georgia law provided Georgia courts with the power to enjoin Georgia residents from bringing vexatious suits in foreign jurisdictions. Petitioner's claim that § 6 of the Federal Employers' Liability Act prohibited such an injunction in this case was overruled. 209 Ga. 187, 71 S. E. 2d 243. We granted certiorari, 344 U.S. 863, for the decision had interpreted an important federal statute, and the interpretation was asserted to be in conflict with decisions of this Court in Miles v. Illinois Central R. Co., 315 U.S. 698 (1942), and Baltimore & O. R. Co. v. Kepner, 314 U.S. 44 (1941).

In our grant of certiorari, we also directed counsel to brief and argue the question of whether the judgment of the Georgia Supreme Court was "final." The statute which vests us with jurisdiction to review the decisions of state courts provides that the judgment must come from the "highest court of a State in which a decision could be had," and it must be "final." 28 U. S. C. § 1257. The case at bar clearly met the first requirement, but we were in doubt as to whether it satisfied the second.

Congress has limited our power to review judgments from state courts lest the Court's jurisdiction be exercised in piecemeal proceedings to render advisory opinions. Were our reviewing power not limited to "final" judgments, litigants would be free to come here and seek

[ 345 U.S. Page 382]

     a decision on federal questions which, after later proceedings, might subsequently prove to be unnecessary and irrelevant to a complete disposition of the litigation.*fn3 Ordinarily, then, the overruling of a demurrer, like the issuance of a temporary injunction,*fn4 is not a "final" judgment.

Yet we are not bound to determine the presence or absence of finality from a mere examination of the "face of the judgment."*fn5 We have not interpreted § 1257 so as to preclude review of federal questions which are in fact ripe for adjudication when tested against the policy of § 1257.*fn6

The finality problem arises in this case because the judgment of the Georgia Supreme Court did not, on its face, end the litigation. Both parties agree that Georgia procedure would permit petitioner to return to the Superior Court of Ben Hill County and interpose some other defense to respondent's suit for an injunction. But petitioner has no other defense to interpose. He has been both explicit and free with his concession that his case rests upon his federal claim and nothing more. If the court below decided that claim correctly, then nothing remains to be done but the mechanical entry of judgment by the trial court. Thus, as the case comes to us, the federal question is the controlling question; "there is nothing more to be decided."*fn7 Under these particular circumstances, we have jurisdiction over the cause, Richfield Oil Corp. v. State Board, 329 U.S. 69 (1946); and

[ 345 U.S. Page 383]

     we reach the merits of petitioner's contention that the Georgia Supreme Court has failed to give proper effect to the venue provisions of the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

Section 6 of that Act establishes petitioner's right to sue in Alabama. It provides that the employee may bring his suit wherever the carrier "shall be doing business," and admittedly respondent does business in Jefferson County, Alabama. Congress has deliberately chosen to give petitioner a transitory cause of action; and we have held before, in a case indistinguishable from this one, that § 6 displaces the traditional "power of a state court to enjoin its citizens, on the ground of oppressiveness . . . from suing . . . in the state courts of another state . . . ." Miles v. Illinois Central R. Co., supra, 315 U.S., at 699. Respondent admits that the Miles case dealt with precisely the issue before us, but respondent tells us that Miles is now no longer the law because Congress overruled it, by implication, with the passage of § 1404 (a) of the Judicial Code in 1948.*fn8 Section 1404 (a) provides:

"For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought."

We have heretofore held that § 1404 (a) makes the doctrine of forum non conveniens applicable to Federal Employers' Liability Act cases brought in federal courts and provides for the transfer of such actions to a more convenient forum. Ex parte Collett, 337 U.S. 55 (1949). Respondent would have us extend that decision, to hold that § 1404 (a) also ...


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