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Southern Ry. Co. v. Postal Telegraph-Cable Co., 179 U.S. 641 (1901)

Southern Railway Company v. Postal Telegraph-Cable Company

No. 64

Argued November 2, 1900

Decided January 7, 1901

179 U.S. 641


Luxton v. North River Bridge Company, 147 U. S. 337, is decisive of the question raised in this case whether a final judgment or order has been entered by the circuit court which could be taken by writ of error to the circuit court of appeals.

This Court has jurisdiction to examine the proceedings in the circuit court of appeals and to reverse its order if its ruling is found erroneous, or the reverse if its ruling was correct.

This was a proceeding commenced by the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company (hereinafter called the telegraph company) against the Southern railway Company (hereinafter called the railway company) to acquire by condemnation the right to construct its telegraph line along and over the railway company's right of way through the State of North Carolina. The petition therefor was filed by the telegraph company in the office of the Clerk of the Superior Court of Guilford County, North Carolina, on June 11, 1898. A summons was issued requiring the railway company to appear before the clerk of the superior court on June 22, 1898, and answer. On that day, the railway

Page 179 U. S. 642

company entered a special appearance and filed a petition and bond for the removal of the case to the United States Circuit Court for the Western District of North Carolina. Sundry proceedings were had in that court, such as a motion to remand, which it is unnecessary to notice. On August 31, 1898, the telegraph company by leave filed an amended petition. On September 15, 1898, the court made an order by which it directed its clerk to appoint three commissioners to assess damages and prescribed their powers and duties. On September 19, 1898, the clerk appointed the commissioners as directed and fixed the time and place for their meeting, and on the same day issued a notice to the railway company of his action. These orders were made on the application of the telegraph company and without notice to the railway company. Thereupon the railway company moved the court to set aside its order of September 15 and for leave to answer. On September 23 the court temporarily suspended the order of September 15. On October 24 an answer was filed, a demurrer of the telegraph company was sustained, and when the railway company asked leave to introduce testimony sustaining the averments of its answer, the court overruled the application and refused to permit the railway company to introduce testimony, and, so far as was needed, reinstated its order of September 15, 1898. Before any further proceedings and without waiting for the assessment of damages by the commissioners and the confirmation of their award by the court, a writ of error and supersedeas was obtained by the railway company, and the case was transferred under such writ of error to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. That court, on March 31, 1899, dismissed the writ of error for want of jurisdiction on the ground that no final order had been entered in the circuit court. 93 F. 393. To review this ruling, this writ of error was sued out.

Page 179 U. S. 643

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