Sidor som bilder






(248 U. S. 9)

WATTS, WATTS & CO., Limited, v. UNIONE
(Argued April 17, 1918. Decided Nov. 4, 1918.)


No. 25.


OF CAUSE-CHANGED CONDITIONS. The Supreme Court, in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, cannot only correct error in the judgment below, but make such disposition of the case as justice may now require, considering changes in fact and in law occurring since the judgment, especially in an admiralty case triable de novo on appeal.


Where after dismissal in the discretion of the court of a suit, because between alien belligerents in a court of a neutral nation because of entry of the United States in the war, it becomes a suit between one belligerent in a court of a cobelligerent against a common enemy, decree will be reversed, as inconsistent with demands of justice under changed circum


[blocks in formation]

Action other than to preserve the status quo should not be taken in a suit against an alien enemy till, by reason of restoration of peace or otherwise, defense may be adequately presented; intercourse between residents of the enemy country and the United States being prohibited by Trading with the Enemy Act, § 3 (c), as well as physically impossible.

Messrs. John M. Woolsey, J. Parker Kirlin, and Mark W. McClay, Jr., all of New York City, for petitioner.

Mr. Charles S. Haight, of New York City, for respondent.

*Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

On August 4, 1914, Great Britain declared war against Germany and on August 12, 1914, against Austria-Hungary. Prior to August 4, Watts, Watts & Co., Limited, a British corporation, had supplied to Unione Austriaca di Navigazione, an Austro-Hungarlan corporation, bunker coal at Algiers, a dependency of the French Republic. Drafts on London given therefor having been protested for nonpayment, the seller brought, on August 24, 1914, a libel in personam against the purchaser in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of New York. Jurisdiction was obtained by attaching one of the steamers to which the coal had been furnished. The attachment was discharged by giving a bond which is now in force. The respondent appeared and filed an answer which admitted that the of the court; and it was submitted for decicase was within the admiralty jurisdiction sion upon a stipulation as to facts and proof of foreign law.

The respondent contended that the District Court, as a court of a neutral nation, should not exercise its jurisdictional power between alien belligerents to require the transfer, by process of judgment and execuOn Writ of Certiorari to the United States tion, of funds by one alien belligerent to anCircuit Court of Appeals for the Second Cir- other; an act which it alleged was prohibcuit. ited alike by the municipal law of both belLibel by Watts, Watts & Co., Limited, ligerents. The libelant replied that performagainst the Unione Austriaca di Naviga-ance of the contract by respondent-that is, zione, etc. Decree dismissing the libel was the payment of a debt due-was legal by the affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals (229 law of the place of performance, whether Fed. 136, 143 C. C. A. 412), and libelant that place be taken to be Algiers or Lonbrings certiorari. don; that it was immaterial whether it was


For other cases see same topic and KEY-NUMBER in all Key-Numbered Digests and Indexes 39 SUP.Cr.-1

legal by the Austro-Hungarian law, since | L. Ed. 111; Mills v. Green, 159 U. S. 651, 16 Austria-Hungary was not the place of per- Sup. Ct. 132, 40 L. Ed. 293; The Schooner formance; and that the enforcement of le- Rachel v. United States, 6 Cranch, 329, 3 L. gal rights here would not infringe the atti- Ed. 239; United States v. Schooner Peggy, 1 tude of impartiality which underlies neu- Cranch, 103, 109, 110, 2 L. Ed. 49. In the case trality. The District Court held that it had at bar the rule is the more insistent, because jurisdiction of the controversy, and that it in admiralty cases are tried de novo on appeal. was within its discretion to determine Yeaton v. United States, 5 Cranch, 281, 3 L. whether it should exercise the jurisdiction; Ed. 101; Irvine v. The Hesper, 122 U. S. since both parties were aliens and the cause 256, 266, 7 Sup. Ct. 1177, 30 L. Ed. 1175; of action arose and was to be performed Reid v. American Express Co., 241 U. S. 544, abroad. It then dismissed the libel without 36 Sup. Ct. 712, 60 L. Ed. 1156. prejudice, saying:

"From the standpoint of this neutral jurisdiction the controlling consideration is that the law of both belligerent countries [Great Britain and Austria-Hungary] forbids a payment by one belligerent subject to his enemy during the continuance of war. This court, in the exercise of jurisdiction founded on comity, may not ignore that state of war and disregard the consequences resulting from it." 224 Fed. 188, 194.

[2, 3] Since the certiorari was granted,

the relation of the parties to the court has changed radically. Then, as earlier, the proceeding was one between alien belligerents in a court of a neutral nation. Now, it is a suit by one belligerent in a court of a cobelligerent against a common enemy. A suit may be brought in our courts against an alien enemy. McVeigh v. United States, 11 Wall. 259, 267, 20 L. Ed. 80. See also Dorsey v. Kyle, 30 Md. 512, 96 Am. Dec. 617. If the libel had been filed under existing cir-a cumstances, security for the claim being obccurt would, in the exercise of discretion, tained by attachment, probably no American dismiss it and thus deprive the libelant not only of its security, but perhaps of all pos

libel is not consistent with the demands of der existing circumstances dismissal of the justice.

The dismissal by the District Court was entered on May 27, 1915. On December 14, 1915, the decree was afirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals, on the ground that it was within the discretion of the trial court to determine whether to take or to decline jurisdiction (The Belgenland, 114 U. S. 355, 5 Sup. Ct. 860, 29 L. Ed. 152), and that the exercise of this discretion should not be in-sibility of ever obtaining satisfaction. Unterfered with, since no abuse was shown (229 Fed. 136, 143 C. C. A. 412). On June 12, 1916, an application for leave to file a petition for writ of mandamus to compel the Court of Appeals to review the *exercise of discretion by the District Court was denied (Ex parte Watts, Watts & Co., 241 U. S. 655, 36 Sup. Ct. 726, 60 L. Ed. 1224), and a writ of certiorari was granted by this court (241 U. S. 677, 36 Sup. Ct. 726, 60 L. Ed. 1232). The certiorari and return were filed July 21, 1916. On December 7, 1917, the President issued a proclamation declaring that a state of war exists between the United States and Austria-Hungary. The case was argued here on April 17, 1918.

McSee also

[4, 5] The respondent, although an alien enemy, is, of course, entitled to defend be Veigh v. United States, supra. fore a judgment should be entered. Windsor v. McVeigh, 93 U. S. 274, 280, 23 L. Ed. 914; Hovey v. Elliott, 167 U. S. 409, 17 Sup. Ct. 841, 42 L. Ed. 215. It is now represented by counsel. But intercourse is prohibited by law between subjects of Austriaungary outside the United States and perEnemy Act of October 6, 1917, c. 106, § 3 (c),

sons in the United States. Trading with the

40 Stat. 412, Public-No. 91-65th Congress. And we take notice of the fact that free in

tercourse between residents of the two countries has been also physically impossible. It is true that, more than three years ago, a stipulation as to the facts and the proof of foreign law was entered into by the then counsel for respondent, who has died since. But reasons may conceivably exist why that stipulation ought to be discharged or modified, or why it should be supplemented by evidence. We cannot say that, for the proper conduct of the defense, consultation between client and counsel and intercourse be tween their respective countries may not be essential even at this stage. The war precludes this.

[1] This court, in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction, has power not only to correct error in the judgment entered below, but to make such disposition of the case as justice may at this time require. Butler v. Eaton, 141 U. S. 240, 11 Sup. Ct. 985, 35 L. Ed. 713; Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fé Ry. Co. v. Dennis, 224 U. S. 503, 506, 32 Sup. Ct. 542, 56 L. Ed. 860. And in determining what justice now requires the court must consider the changes in fact and in law which have supervened since the decree was entered below. United States v. Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien Gesellschaft, 239 U. S. 466, 475, 478, 36 Sup. Ct. 212, 60 L. Ed. 387; Berry v. Davis, 242 U. S. 468, 37 Sup. Ct. 208, 61 L. Ed. 441; Crozier v. Krupp, 224 Under these circumstances, we are of opinU. S. 290, 302, 32 Sup. Ct. 488, 56 L. Ed. 771; ion that the decree dismissing the libel Jones v. Montague, 194 U. S. 147, 24 Sup. Ct. should be set aside and the case remanded 611, 48 L. Ed. 913; Dinsmore v. Southern Ex- to the District Court for further proceedings, press Co., 183 U. S. 115, 120, 22 Sup. Ct. 45, 46 | but that no action should be taken there (ex

« FöregåendeFortsätt »