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Johnson v. Manhattan Railway Co., 289 U.S. 479 (1933)

Johnson v. Manhattan Railway Co.

No. 711

Argued April 18, 19, 1933

Decided May 29, 1933*

289 U.S. 479


1. Review under writ of certiorari limited to that sought by petition. P. 289 U. S. 494.

2. Parties appearing in an equity suit in the District Court in response to orders therein inviting them to show cause why a temporary receivership should not be continued, are not precluded from objecting to the authority of the judge under an assignment, or to the inconsistency of his action with applicable court rules, or to the unfitness of the receivers, and should the receivership be continued in spite of these objections, they would be entitled to appeal. P. 289 U. S. 495.

3. An attack in a suit for a receivership in the District Court upon the appointment of receivers of the same property in an earlier independent suit in the same court, upon the grounds that the judge who made the appointment was incompetent to act and the persons appointed receivers unfit, held a collateral attack. P. 289 U. S. 495.

4. A collateral attack can be successful only where and to the extent that it discloses a want of power, as distinguished from error in the exertion of power that was possessed. P. 289 U. S. 496.

Page 289 U. S. 480

5. A collateral attack is not converted into a direct one by consolidating the suit in which it is made with the suit in which the proceeding attacked was taken. P. 289 U. S. 496.

6. Under 28 US.C. § 734, consolidation is permitted as a matter of convenience and economy in administration, but does not merge the suits into a single cause, or change the rights of the parties, or make those who are parties in one suit parties in another. P. 289 U. S. 496.

7. Under 28 U.S.C. § 22, providing that the senior circuit judge of a circuit, "if the public interest requires," may designate "any circuit judge" of the circuit to hold a district court therein, and id., § 23, requiring the circuit judge so assigned to discharge all the judicial duties "for which he is so appointed, during the time for which he is so appointed," the senior circuit judge is authorized to assign himself, and also to make the designation selective, for a particular case. Pp. 289 U. S. 497-500.

8. This meaning of the words is confirmed by the legislative history of the provision and the practice under it. P. 289 U. S. 497.

9. Reenactment of a statutory provision without change implies legislative adoption of the prior practical construction of it. P. 289 U. S. 500.

10. The duty of deciding whether the public interest requires an assignment under § 22, supra, is on the judge making the assignment, and his decision thereon is not open to a collateral attack. P. 289 U. S. 501.

11. An attempt of a private party, by a bill in the District Court seeking a receiver, to set aside orders appointing receivers made by an assigned circuit judge in another suit in the same court, upon the ground that his assignment was invalid, cannot be regarded as a proceeding in quo warranto, and consequently as a direct attack. P. 289 U. S. 502.

12. A rule of the District Court providing that an assigned judge shall "do such work only as may be assigned to him by the senior district judge," is inconsistent with 28 U.S.C. §§ 22 and 23, as applied to a circuit judge assigned, under those sections, to the District Court for a particular case. P. 289 U. S. 503.

13. The same is true of a rule of the District Court providing that all applications for the appointment of receivers in equity causes shall be made to the judge holding the motion part of the court, and "to no other judge." P. 289 U. S. 503.

Page 289 U. S. 481

14. By 28 U.S.C. § 731, the power of the District Courts to make rules is confined to such as are "not inconsistent with an law of the United States," and it obviously would be thus limited even without the statute. P. 289 U. S. 503.

15. The power of a senior circuit judge to assign himself to sit in a particular case in the District Court is one that should be sparingly exercised and then only with care and discretion, and he occasions are rare in which the matter cannot be referred to the Chief Justice or the Circuit Justice. P. 289 U. S. 504.

16. The assignment of a judge to take charge through a receivership of immensely valuable property of public carriers, in a case of great public interest involving many diverse claims and difficult problems, is a task to be performed only upon careful consideration and with the utmost impartiality. P. 289 U. S. 504.

17. A difference of opinion between the senior circuit judge an the district judges, respecting the relative fitness of individuals and trust companies as equity receivers, held not a proper ground for taking the cause away from the district judge before whom it ordinarily would come, and bringing it before the assigning senior circuit judge, in this case. P. 289 U. S. 505.

18. As the action of the senior circuit judge in assigning himself to the District Court and appointing receivers in this matter is embarrassing to the receivership, and as, by his withdrawal now that embarrassment would be relieved, the Court suggests that he do withdraw and open the way for another judge to conduct the further proceedings. P. 289 U. S. 505.

61 F.2d 934 affirmed.

Certiorari to review the reversal of a decree of the District Court in a suit for receivers. The decree was entered by a district judge and purported to vacate certain orders appointing and continuing receivers, etc., made by the senior circuit judge sitting in the District Court, in another suit, under an assignment made by himself. See 1 F.Supp. 809.

Page 289 U. S. 483

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