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SMITH v. ADAMS.

decided: April 1, 1889.

SMITH
v.
ADAMS.



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF DAKOTA.

Author: Field

[ 130 U.S. Page 173]

 MR. JUSTICE FIELD delivered the opinion of the court.

The designation of the county seat of a county in Dakota, or providing for its designation by popular election, was a matter properly belonging to the legislative department of the territorial government. It was not a matter by itself for judicial cognizance. But when the law of the Territory left the designation of a county seat to the voters of the county, and provided that the validity of the election could be contested by any competent elector of the county before the District Court of the district within which the county was situated, upon leave obtained from such court for that purpose, and prescribed the mode in which such contest should be prosecuted by the contesting elector, and defended by the commissioners of the county under whose direction the election was held, and proofs be taken upon the matter in issue, and that the validity of the election should then be determined by the District Court -- the designation of a county seat under the law became the subject of judicial cognizance, a case or controversy arising upon such proceedings being taken to which the judicial power of the Territory attaches. This has been substantially the meaning given to the terms "cases and controversies," used in the judicial article of the Constitution defining the limits of the judicial power of the United States. By those terms are intended the claims or contentions of litigants brought before the courts for adjudication by regular proceedings established for the protection or enforcement of rights, or the prevention, redress, or punishment of wrongs. Whenever the claim or contention of a party takes such a

[ 130 U.S. Page 174]

     form that the judicial power is capable of acting upon it, then it has become a case or controversy. Thus, in Osburn v. Bank of the United States, 9 Wheat. 738, 819, this court, speaking by Chief Justice Marshall, after quoting the third article of the Constitution declaring the extent of the judicial power of the United States, said: "This clause enables the judicial department to receive jurisdiction to the full extent of the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States, when any question respecting them shall assume such a form that the judicial power is capable of acting on it. That power is capable of acting only when the subject is submitted to it by a party who asserts his rights in the form prescribed by law. It then becomes a case, and the Constitution declares that the judicial power shall extend to all cases arising under the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States."

We are of opinion, therefore, that the validity of an election to determine the county seat of a county in Dakota under the laws of the Territory, when presented to the courts in the forms prescribed by those laws, becomes a subject of action within the jurisdiction of the territorial court. As thus presented, it is a case of controversy between an elector of the county and its commissioners, and the judgment theron of the District Court of the Territory was subject to appeal to its Supreme Court. Whether the judgment of that court can be reviewed here must depend upon the act of Congress or March 3, 1885, 23 Stat. 443, c. 355, which provides as follows:

"SEC. 1. That no appeal or writ of error shall hearafter be allowed from any judgment or decree in any suit at law or in equity in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, or in the Supreme Court of any of the Territories of the United States, unless the matter in dispute, exclusive of costs, shall exceed the sum of five thousand dollars.

"SEC. 2. That the preceding section shall not apply to any case wherein is involved the validity of any patent or copyright, or in which is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States; but in all such cases an appeal or writ of error may be brought without regard to the sum or value in dispute."

[ 130 U.S. Page 175]

     The objection that no Federal question is involved undoubtedly has reference to the second section of the above act, which provides that the appellate jurisdiction of this court over cases from the territorial courts shall not be determined by the amount in dispute, if the validity of a treaty or a statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States, is drawn in question, but that in such cases an appeal or writ of error may be brought without regard to the sum or value in dispute. No such question being involved, our appellate jurisdiction in this case depends upon whether the amount in dispute, exclusive of costs, exceeds the sum designated. By matter in dispute is meant the subject of litigation, the matter upon which the action is brought and issue is joined, and in relation to which, if the issue be one of fact, testimony is taken. It is conceded that the pecuniary value of the matter in dispute may be determined, not only by the money judgment prayed, where such is the case, but in some cases by the increased or diminished value of the property directly affected by the relief prayed, or by the pecuniary result to one of the parties immediately from the judgment. Thus a suit to quiet the title to parcels of real property, or to remove a cloud therefrom, by which their use and enjoyment by the owner are impaired, is brought within the cognizance of the court, under the statute, only by the value of the property affected. Alexander v. Pendleton, 8 Cranch, 462; Peirsoll v. Elliott, 6 Pet. 95; Stark v. Starrs, 6 Wall. 402; Jones v. Bolles, 9 Wall. 364, 369, and Holland v. Challen, 110 U.S. 15. So in a case impeaching the right to an office, the amount of the salary attached to it is considered as determining the value of the matter in dispute.Thus in Smith v. Whitney, 116 U.S. 167, 173, where the application was for a writ of prohibition restaining proceedings by court-martial against an officer, an objection being taken to the appellate jurisdiction of this court on the ground that the subject matter of the suit was incapable of pecuniary estimation, the court, by Mr. Justice Gray, replied: "The matter in dispute is whether the petitioner is subject to a prosecution which may end in a sentence dismissing him from the service, and depriving him of a salary,

[ 130 U.S. Page 176]

     as paymaster-general during the residue of his term as such, and as pay inspector afterwards, which in less than two years would exceed the sum of five thousand dollars. Rev. Stat. §§ 1556, 1565, 1624, arts. 8, 22, 48, 53. The case cannot be distinguished in principle from those in which it has been held that a judgment awarding a peremptory writ of mandamus to admit one to an office, or a judgment of ouster from an office, might be reviewed by this court upon writ of error, if the salary during the term of the office would exceed the sum named in the statute defining its appellate jurisdiction. Columbian Ins. Co. v. Wheelwright, 7 Wheat. 534; United States v. Addison, 22 How. 174." Not doubting the correctness of the doctrine thus stated, we do not perceive how it can help the appellants. It is true they represent the county, but it is impossible to state any rule, by which the benefit the county may gain, or the damage it may suffer from the result of the election contested, can be estimated. The fact that the county may acquire or lose a parcel of land in Aberdeen exceeding in value $5000, with the building thereon, by the conditional conveyance of that city, according as the county seat is kept at or removed from the place designated as county seat by the election, the validity of which is contested, does not obviate the difficulty. The acquisition or loss of the land in question is not a necessary consequence of the election for the county seat, such result not being created by law, but by a mere accident arising from a voluntary gift by Aberdeen, made contingent upon the removal of the county seat to that place and its continuance there. In Smith v. Whitney, the salary was given by the law and went with the tenure of the office. A promise by a third person to ...


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