Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company

PETITIONER: Francisco Romero
RESPONDENT: International Terminal Operating Company Compania Trasatlantica, also known as Spanish Line, Garcia & Diaz, Inc., and Quin Lumber Co., Inc.
LOCATION: S.S. Guadalupe

DOCKET NO.: 3
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 358 US 354 (1959)
ARGUED: Mar 13, 1958
REARGUED: Oct 22, 1958 / Oct 23, 1958
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1959
GRANTED: Oct 14, 1957

ADVOCATES:
John L. Quinlan - for respondents Compania Trasatlantica and Garcia & Diaz, Inc.
Narciso Puente, Jr. - for the petitioner
Silas B. Axtell - for the petitioner
Sidney A. Schwartz - for respondent Quin Lumber Co., Inc.

Facts of the case

While the Spanish ship S.S. Guadalupe was docked in Hoboken, NJ, a cable struck Francisco Romero and seriously him. He sued for negligence under the Jones act and maritime law. The Jones Act provides jurisdiction for claims under the Constitution and treaties of the U.S. for persons of diverse citizenship. Both Romero and his employer were aliens, so there was no diversity of citizenship. Also, the maritime laws did not arise from the Constitution or treaties of the U.S.. The district court dismissed all claims for lack of jurisdiction. The district court also held that Romero could receive adequate remedies under Spanish law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed.

Question

(1) Do U.S. courts have jurisdiction to decide the matter under the Jones Act?

(2) Do U.S. courts have the authority to decide maritime law matters?

Media for Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 13, 1958 (Part 2) in Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 13, 1958 (Part 1) in Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 22, 1958 in Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 23, 1958 in Romero v. International Terminal Operating Company

Earl Warren:

Number 3, Francisco Romero versus International Terminal Operating Company, et al.

Mr. Axtell, you may continue with your argument.

Silas Blake Axtell:

If the Court please.

I want to refer to the brief of the respondent called Skibsfartens Arbeidsgiverforening, Norwegian Shipping Federation, page 18 of that brief.

Mr. Watson who, I believe, wrote the brief with Mr. Estabrook as referred to report of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee of the House not as to this bill but after the bill that was before the Congress three years before.

Fortunately, I -- and this is with the help of my associate, Mr. Ellis, who's been before this Court many times before, and we searched our congressional library and records and found the record, 66th Congress, three years, late years, 2nd Session, page 7037.

Mr. King, the presiding Senator, “Does the Senator say that the Supreme Court has held we have jurisdiction over foreign seamen and foreign ships?”

Mr. Jones of Washington, “Under the present statute, we have such jurisdiction in our courts.

The Supreme Court held the Act to be constitutional only sometime ago.”

Mr. King -- now, this is the date.

It was May 14th, 1920, three weeks before this Act would pass Congress.

Earl Warren:

Three weeks or three years, did you say?

Silas Blake Axtell:

Three weeks.

Earl Warren:

Oh, three weeks.

(Voice Overlap) --

Silas Blake Axtell:

I'm reading from a congressional record of May --

Earl Warren:

Yes.

Silas Blake Axtell:

-- 14th, 1920.

The Act was passed June 5th, 1920.

This was the debate on this amendment just before it passed.

I will skip over to page 7043 of that record, the bottom on the right-hand side.

Mr. King, “I should like to ask the Senator, having this bill in charge, what is the necessity now of reenacting legislation dealing with this subject?”

Mr. Jones of Washington, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce who prepared the bill, “I will call the Senate to their attention to the only change made in the law by this provision.”

You will note on page 51 and lines 5 and 6 the words, “the payment of such advanced wages or allotment.

Here is the change in the existing law whether made within or without the United States or a territory subject to jurisdiction thereof.”

Then, Mr. Jones said this, his own language, “The Supreme Court has upheld this section and has also upheld the right of Congress to deal with foreign seamen in our ports.”

We suggest that, of course, they knew what they were doing when they said, “any seamen may elect”.

I think Mr. Justice Frankfurter referred to it in that Maryland case.

The -- the seaman may invoke the jurisdiction of a court in his interest.

That's part of America, to give people equal opportunity here.