March 28, 1945
DEFENSE SUPPLIES CORPORATION
UNITED STATES LINES CO. ET AL.
Before SWAN, CHASE, and FRANK, Circuit Judges.
FRANK, Circuit Judge.
The threshold question is whether the Defense Supplies Corporation may bring suit against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act. We recognize the fact that the real parties in interest are the insurance companies. But their right to sue is dependent upon the right of the party to whom they are subrogated.*fn2
"In interpreting the [Suits in Admiralty] act, permitting as it does a suit to be brought against the United States, we must follow the rule of strict construction. This follows from the fact that the United States cannot be sued without their consent, and, if Congress in certain cases gives its consent, the courts are confined to the letter of the statute which expresses such consent. Schillinger v. United States, 155 U.S. 163, 166, 15 S. Ct. 85, 39 L. Ed. 108." The Isonomia, 2 Cir., 285 F. 516, 520. Cf. Knowlton v. United States, 2 Cir., 212 F.2d 192 and cases cited; Wallace v. United States, 2 Cir., 142 F.2d 240.
It seems clear to us that the complete ownership of the Defense Supplies Corporation by the United States shows this to be nothing more than an action by the United States against the United States.*fn3 The Act would appear to contemplate no such action. Sections 1 and 2 indicate that the United States shall be the defendant. And Section 3 states that such suits as are brought under the Act shall proceed according to the principles of law and rules of practice obtaining in like cases between private parties. In private litigation the plaintiff and defendant cannot be the same.*fn4 For, in that event, there is no real case or controversy. We conclude, therefore, that the Defense Supplies Corporation cannot maintain a suit against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act.*fn5
Our disposition of the first question makes it unnecessary to determine whether or not the Robert Morris is a "merchant vessel" under the terms of the Act.