Usually, federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime matters. However, it cannot be considered entirely exclusive. Even though federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over admiralty in rem actions, exceptions to the exclusive jurisdiction applies in cases invoking the “saving to suitors” clause, and cases in which Congress has recognized the concurrent jurisdiction of other federal courts to entertain actions for the enforcement of maritime rights. The power to grant exclusive admiralty jurisdiction is vested in Congress.
In Moses Taylor, 71 U.S. 411 (U.S. 1867), review of a California county court judgment was sought by defendant vessel. The judgment for review had held that according to California statutes, the county court had jurisdiction over plaintiff passenger’s breach of contract action. The passenger had entered into a contract with the vessel owner who agreed to transport the passenger across the high seas, but the vessel owner breached the contract. According to California statutes, liability was imposed by upon vessels and regulated proceedings in civil cases in the courts of California. The court reversed the judgment and held that the cognizance of civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction that was vested in the district courts by § 9 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, had been made exclusive by Congress. Therefore the county court had jurisdiction over the matter.