Murdock v. City of Memphis
Murdock v. Memphis
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued January 21, 1874
Reargued April 2–3, 1874
Decided January 11, 1875
Full case name Murdock v. City of Memphis Citations 87 U.S. 590 (more)
22 L. Ed. 429; 1874 U.S. LEXIS 1451; 20 Wall. 590
Holding The Supreme Court affirmed the state court's decision on federal law, but would not consider the state court's decisions resting solely on state law. Court membershipChief Justice
Case opinions Majority Miller Dissent Clifford, joined by Swayne Dissent Bradley Laws applied U.S. Const. Art. III, § 2. and Section 25 of Judiciary Act of 1789 as amended in 1867
William Tod Otto argued the case on behalf of the City of Memphis. The case having been reargued, as well as argued originally, before the appointment of the Chief Justice Waite, who took no part in the judgment.
Murdock challenged on several grounds a state court's decision relating to land devised by Murdock's ancestors. Murdock's federal claim which was outcome determinative was that a federal statute created a trust for the land. The state court rejected this claim and the Supreme Court affirmed. Murdock, however, urged the Supreme Court to review the state court's findings on state law based on the Judiciary Act of 1867. The Supreme Court interpreted the Act as not conferring jurisdiction over the state claims, but the Court did not decide as a constitutional matter whether conferring such jurisdiction would be constitutional.
The Supreme Court continued to lay some ground rules for appeals of state court decisions, namely the effect of a state court decision resting on an adequate and independent state ground. While these rules were important in the development of adequate and independent state grounds doctrine in cases like Fox Film Corp. v. Muller and Michigan v. Long, they were merely dicta. The Court ultimately affirmed the decision of the state court on the federal law and did not decide the two issues of state law.
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