Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

455.)

To this decree of affirmance this writ| quoted relates exclusively to writs of error of error is prosecuted.

Messrs. Wilbur F. Zeigler and Edward R. Taylor for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Maxwell Evarts and William F. Herrin for defendant in error.

[484] *Mr. Justice White, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court:

It is asserted that the record is not legally in this court because the writ of error was allowed by the chief justice of the state after the expiration of the time when it could have been lawfully granted. It was allowed within two years of the decree by the state court, but after more than one year had expired. The contention is that writs of error from this court to the courts of the several states cannot now be lawfully taken after the lapse of one year from the final entry of the decree or judgment to which the writ of error is directed.

This rests on the assumption that the act of March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. at L. 826), not only provides that writs of error or appeals in cases taken to the Supreme Court from the circuit courts of appeals created by the act of 1891, shall be limited to one year, but also fixes the same limit of time for writs of error or appeal in cases taken to the Su[485]preme Court from the circuit and district courts of the United States, thereby repealing the two years' limitation as to such circuit and district courts previously established by law. (Rev. Stat. § 1008.) As this asserted operation of the act of 1891 produces a uniform limit of one year for writs of error or appeals as to all the courts of the United States, in so far as review in the Supreme Court is concerned, the deduction is made that a like limit necessarily applies to writs of error from the Supreme Court to state courts, since such state courts are (Rev. Stat. § 100%) subject to the limitation governing judgments or decrees of "a court of the United States." The portion of the act of 1891 from which it is claimed the one year limitation as to writs of error and appeal from the Supreme Court to all the courts of the United States arises is the last paragraph of section 6 of that act. The section of the act in question in the portions which precede the sentences relied upon, among other things, defines the jurisdiction of the circuit courts of appeals established by the act of 1891, and determines in what classes of cases the jurisdiction of such courts is to be final. After making these provisions the concluding part of section 6 provides as follows:

"In all cases not herein before, in this section, made final, there shall be of right an appeal or writ of error or review of the case by the Supreme Court of the United States where the matter in controversy shall exceed one thousand dollars besides costs. But no such appeal shall be taken or writ of error sued out unless within one year after the entry of the order, judgment, or decree sought to be reviewed.'

or appeal in cases taken to the Supreme Court from the circuit courts of appeals. The statute, in the section in question, having dealt with the jurisdiction of the circuit courts of appeals and defined in what classes of cases their judgments or decrees should be final and not subject to review, follows these provisions by conferring on the Supreme Court the power to review the judg. ments or decrees of the circuit courts of appeals, not made final by the act. To construe the section as relating to or controlling the review by *error or appeal, by the Su-[486] preme Court, of the judgments or decrees of circuit or district courts of the United States, would not only disregard its plain letter but do violence to its obvious intent. Relating only, then, to writs of error or appeal from the Supreme Court to the circuit courts of appeals, it follows that the limitation of time, as to appeals or writs of error, found in the concluding sentence, refers only to the writs of error or appeal dealt with by the section, and not to such remedies when applied to the district or circuit courts of the United States, which are not referred to in the section in question. This is made manifest by the statement, not that all appeals or writs of error to the Supreme Court from all the courts of the United States shall be taken in one year, but that "no such appeal shall be taken unless within one year," etc. If these words of limitation were an independent and separate provision of the act of 1891, thereby giving rise to the implication that the words "no such appeal or writ of error" qualified and limited every such proceeding anywhere referred to in the act of 1891, the contention advanced would have more appar ent force. As, however, this is not the case, and as, on the contrary, the words "no such appeal or writ of error" are clearly but a portion of section 6, it would be an act of the broadest judicial legislation to sever them from their connection in the act in order to give them a scope and significance which their plain import refutes, and which would be in conflict with the meaning naturally begotten by the provision of the act with which the limitation as to time is associated. Nor is there anything in section of the act of 1891, destroying the plain meaning of the words "such appeal or writ of error" found in the concluding sentence of section 6. The language of section 4 is as follows:

"All appeals by writ of error or otherwise, from said district courts, shall only be subject to review in the Supreme Court of the United States or in the circuit court of appeals hereby established, as is hereinafter provided, and the review, by appeal, by writ of error or otherwise, from the existing circuit courts shall be had only in the Supreme Court of the United States or in the circuit courts of appeals hereby established *accord-[487] ing to the provisions of this act regulating the same."

This section refers to the jurisdiction of the courts created by the act of 1891, and to the changes in the distribution of judicial

It is apparent that the language just' power made necessary thereby. If the con

unchanged the limitation as to the time within which error might be prosecuted to the courts whose practice in this particular governed the practice in state courts, irresistibly warrants the inference that it was intended that the practice in the state courts as to the time of suing out writs of error should continue unaltered. The writ of error in this case having been allowed within two years from the final decree, was therefore seasonably taken.

cluding words of section 4, "according to the provisions of this act regulating the same," were held to govern the time for writs of error or appeal to the Supreme Court from the district or circuit courts of the United States, the argument would not be strengthened, since there is no provision in the act governing the time for such writs of error or appeal. The contention that Congress cannot be supposed to have intended to fix two distinct and different limitations for review by the Supreme Court, one of two years as We are brought, then, to consider whether to the circuit and district courts of the there arises on the record a Federal question United States, and the other of one year as to within the intendment of Revised Statutes, the circuit courts of appeals, affords no ground § 709. The claim is that two distinct Fedfor disregarding the statute as enacted, and eral issues are presented by the record or are departing from its unambiguous provisions necessarily involved therein. They are: upon the theory of a presumed intent of Con- First. That by a proper construction of the gress. Indeed, if it were conceded that the act of Congress granting land to the railroad provisions of section 4 referred to the pro- (14 Stat. at L. 292, chap. 278), no title to cedure or limit of time in which appeals or lands which were beyond the place limits, but writs of error could be taken, in cases brought in the indemnity limits, passed to the railto the Supreme Court, from the circuit or dis-road until approved selections of such lands trict courts of the United States, such con- had taken place, hence that it was not only cession would be fatal to the contention which drawing in question the validity of an auare considering, for this reason. The thority exercised under the United States,[489] concluding portion of section 5 of the act of but also denying a privilege or immunity 1891 is as follows: claimed under the statute of the United States to decide that the railroad had before such approved selection any right to contract to sell the lands in question. Second. That it was drawing in question the validity of an authority exercised under a law of the United States, and denying a privilege or immunity claimed under such law to hold that the right of the railroad to the lands in question had not been irrevocably adversely determined by the action of the Secretary of the Interior, revoking his previous action withdrawing such lands, even although at the time of such cancelation of the prior general withdrawal, there were pending in the Land Department claims of the railroad to the land in question which at that time were not finally disposed of.

we

"Nothing in this act shall affect the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in cases appealed from the highest court of a state, nor the construction of the statute providing for review of such cases."

Whilst this language clearly relates to jurisdictional power, and not to the mere time in which writs of error may be taken, yet the same reasoning which would impel the concession that section 4 related to procedure and not to jurisdictional authority would give rise to a like conclusion as to the provision in section 5 just quoted. It follows, therefore, that the only reasoning by which it is possible to conclude that the act of 1891 was intended to change the limit of time in which writs of error could issue from the Supreme [488]Court to the circuit *or district courts, or in which appeals could be taken from such courts to the Supreme Court, would compel to the conclusion that the act of 1891 had expressly preserved the two years' limitation of time then existing as to writs of error from state courts to the Supreme Court.

Conceding arguendo only that the conten tions thus advanced would give rise to the Federal questions as claimed, it becomes wholly unnecessary to consider them if it be disclosed by the record that the state court rested its decision upon grounds wholly independent of these contentions, and which grounds are entirely adequate to sustain the judgment rendered by the state court without considering the Federal questions asserted to arise on the record. McQuade v. Trenton, 172 U. S. 636 [ante, 581]; Capital Bank v. Cadiz Bank, 172 U.S. 425 [ante, 502].

From the conclusion that the sixth section of the act of 1891 did not change the limit of two years as regards the cases which could be taken from the circuit and district courts of the United States to the Supreme Court, it follows that the act of 1891 did not operate to reduce the time in which writs of error In inquiring whether this is the case we could issue from the Supreme Court to the are unconcerned with the conclusions of the state courts. That period was two years, in trial court, or with those of a department of analogy to the time limit established by stat- the supreme court of California, and consider ute with reference to writs of error to the dis-only the final action of the supreme court of trict and circuit courts of the United States, which courts, at the time of the passage of the act of 1891, answered to the designation of "a court of the United States" contained in section 1003 of the Revised Statutes, regulating the subject of writs of error to state courts. The circumstance that Congress, in creating a new court of the United States, affixed a different limitation as to the time for prosecuting error to such court and left

the state in disposing of the controversy now
before us. A reference to the opinion of the
supreme court of California makes patent
the fact that that court rested its decision
solely upon a construction of the contract,
and therefore that it decided the case
upon grounds wholly independent of the
Federal questions now claimed to be in-
volved. The court held that the contract dis-
closed that both parties dealt with reference

to the existing state of the title to the lands, the vendor selling his hope of obtaining title and the vendee buying such expectation; that the result of the contract was that the vendor in advance agreed to sell such title, [490]if any, as he might obtain *in the future, and that the vendee agreed for the sake of obtaining in advance the right to the title, if the vendor could procure it, to pay the amount agreed upon, subject to the return of the price in the event it should be finally determined that the hope of title in the vendor, as to which both parties were fully informed, should prove to be illusory. On these subjects the court said:

"The defendant further contends that the contracts were void ab initio, for want of mutuality or consideration, or amounted at most to mere offer to purchase on his part. This contention cannot be sustained. Plaintiff claimed title to these lands, but its title had not been perfected by patent. Defendant had the same opportunity as plaintiff of knowing the nature and probable validity of that claim. Under these circumstances plaintiff agree to convey to defendant when it should obtain a patent, and to permit defendant to enter into possession of the land at once. In consideration of these premises defendant agreed to purchase when a patent should be issued, paid at once one fifth of the purchase price and one year's interest on the balance and agreed to pay the remainder (with interest thereon annually in advance) on or before a given date, with the right to a repayment without interest in the event of an ultimate failure to obtain a patent. These promises were strictly mutual, and each constituted a sufficient consideration for the other. Plaintiff by its contract surrendered its right to contract with or sell to any one else, and yielded to defendant the present right to possession which it claimed. These concessions were clearly a detriment to plaintiff, and, in a legal sense, an advantage to defendant; and they, therefore, furnish a consideration for defendant's promise to pay."

Upon the question of the final determination of the hope of title upon which the return of the price was by the contract made to depend, the court concluded as follows:

"The only question really involved in the case is as to the construction of the contracts sued upon. It is contended by the defendant that he was under no obligation to purchase the land or to pay the remainder of the pur[491]chase price, unless the plaintiff should, with

in the five years, obtain a patent for the land; and that, as the plaintiff had failed to obtain a patent within that time, and as the action was not tried until after the expiration of that time, the defendant was entitled to a rescission of the contract. But clearly the contracts will not bear any such construction. The defendant contracted unconditionally to pay the remainder of the purchase price on or before' a certain day named, and to pay interest annually in advance on the remainder; but the plaintiff contracted to convey to defendant only 'upon the receipt of a patent,' and was to repay the money only 'in case it be finally deter

mined that patent shall not issue.' The defendant, therefore, was not entitled to terminate the contract or to require a repayment of the moneys paid, until the question of the issue of a patent to the plaintiff should be 'finally determined.' The findings state that proceedings are now pending in the United States Land Department for the issue of patent to the plaintiff, and that it has not been finally determined that such patent shall not issue. At the time, therefore, at which defendant contracted to pay the balance of the purchase price, plaintiff was not in default, nor was it in default at the time of the trial."

We cannot say that the state court has erroneously construed the act of Congress, since its decree rests alone upon the conclusion reached by it, that by the contracts between the parties there existed a right to recover, whatever may have been the existing state of the title. The conclusion that the parties were competent, to contract with reference to an expectancy of title involved no Federal question. The decision that the final determination of title, referred to in the contracts, related to the proceedings in the Land Department which were pending at the time the contracts were entered into and not to the cancelation by the Secretary of the Interior of the withdrawal order, which had been made by that officer before the date of the contracts, precludes the conception that the state court erroneously denied the legal consequence flowing from the order of withdrawal. It follows then that as the decree of the court below was adequately *sustained[492] by an independent non-Federal question, there is no issue presented on the record which we have the power to review, and the cause is therefore dismissed for want of ju risdiction.

LUCETTA R. MEDBURY, Appt.,

v.

UNITED STATES.

(See S. C. Reporter's ed. 492-500.)

Jurisdiction of the court of claims-act of June 16, 1880-recovery back of moneys paid for public lands.

1.

2.

3.

The court of claims has jurisdiction by the act of March 3, 1887, of a claim founded upon the act of June 16, 1880, for the repayment of $1.25 per acre to the purchaser of public lands for which he has paid double minimum price, which have been found afterwards not to be within the limits of a railroad land grant.

The act of 1880 refers to a mistake in location when the entry was made.

Where, at the time the entry was made and the double minimum price paid for the lands, they were within the place limits of a railroad grant, and eighteen years thereafter the lands were forfeited to the government because the railroad was not built, the purchaser cannot recover back from the government the $1.25 per acre under the act of 1880.

[No. 225.]

Argued March 17, 1899. Decided April 3, 1899.

A

PPEAL from a judgment of the Court of Claims dismissing for want of jurisdiction the claim of Lucetta R. Medbury against the United States for the recovery back of half the double minimum price paid for public lands entered when they were within the limits of a railroad land grant which was afterwards forfeited. Judgment modified and as modified affirmed.

Statement by Mr. Justice Peckham: The appellant herein filed her petition in the court of claims and sought to recover judgment by virtue of the provisions of the act approved June 16, 1880, chap. 244 (21 Stat. at L. 287).

was

The Attorney General denied all the allegations of the petition, and the case tried by the court upon the following agreed statement of facts: Congress made a grant of lands to the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company by the act of May 5, 1864, chap. 80 (13 Stat. at L. 66), which contained the condition that the railroad should be built as therein provided. After the grant the price of the lands reserved within its place limits [493] was raised from $1.25 per acre to $2.50 *per acre under the authority of law and by the direction of the Secretary of the Interior. In 1872, one Samuel Medbury made an entry of more than seven thousand acres of land, within the place limits of that grant and at the double minimum price of $2.50 per acre, and he died in 1874, leaving his widow, the appellant herein, and a son and daughter, who subsequently conveyed to the appellant all their interest in the claim herein made.

The conditions upon which the grant of lands was made to that particular section of the proposed railroad were never complied with and the proposed railroad was never constructed, for which reason the grant was by the act of Congress of September 29, 1890 (26 Stat. at L. 496), forfeited to the United States. By reason of this failure to build the railroad, and because of the forfeiture of the land grant by Congress, the lands purchased by Medbury ceased to be alternate sections of land within a railroad land grant, although they were such when he purchased them. Thereafter, and on the 14th of November, 1894, Lucetta R. Medbury, as the widow and heir of Samuel Medbury, made application to the Secretary of the Interior for the repayment of the excess of $1.25 per acre upon the seven thousand and odd acres of land entered by her husband, the application being made under the second section of the act of June 16, 1880, chap. 244 (21 Stat. at L. 287), and on October 5, 1897, the application was denied by the Secretary. Upon these findings of fact the court of claims decided, as a conclusion of law, that the petition should be dismissed for want of jurisdiction. From that decision the claimant has appealed to this court.

Mr. George Hines Gorman and Louis A. Pradt, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee:

The court of claims had no jurisdiction to entertain this action for the reason that the same is founded solely and exclusively upon a legislative act, which provides the remedy and the manner of its enforcement at the same time that it creates the right; and the right so created can only be enforced in the exact manner provided in the statute.

Wells v. Pontotoc County Supers. 102 U. S. 625, 26 L. ed. 122; Janney v. Buell, 55 Ala. 408; Phillips v. Ash, 63 Ala. 414; Hollister v. Hollister Bank, 2 Keyes, 245; Dickinson v. Van Wormer, 39 Mich. 141; Sutherland, Stat. Constr.

The creation of a new jurisdiction is not to be presumed, in the absence of adequate language.

Warwick v. White, Bumb. 106; Kite's Case, 1 Barn. & C. 107; Reg. v. Baines, 2 Ld. Raym. 1269; Ex parte Story, L. R. 3 Q. B. Div. 166; James v. Southwestern R. Co. L. R. 7 Exch. 296; Streat v. Rothschild, 12 Daly, 95; Re Contested Election of McNeill, 111 Pa. 235; Druse v. Horter, 57 Wis. 644; Re Hersom, 39 Me. 476; Pitman v. Flint, 10 Pick. 506.

Nor will a construction be adopted which enlarges the jurisdiction of courts, in the absence of express words or necessary implica

tion.

Ex parte Story, L. R. 3 Q. B. Div. 166; Kite's Case, 1 Barn. & C. 107; Thomas v. Adams, 2 Port. (Ala.) 188; Grove v. School Inspectors, 20 Ill. 532; Thompson v. Cox, 53 N. C. (8 Jones, L.) 311; Druse v. Horter, 57 Wis. 644; Daffin v. State, 11 Tex. App. 76.

Nothing is to be taken by intendment, and only such jurisdiction is given as is set forth plainly and expressly.

Clyde v. United States, 13 Wall. 39, 20 L. ed. 481; Finn v. United States, 123 U. S. 227, 31 L. ed. 128; Schillinger v. United States, 155 U. S. 163, 39 L. ed. 108; Ex parte Greene, 29 Ala. 61.

Statutes which create liabilities where none existed before are always strictly construed, and the liability will never be extended beyond the plain and express provisions of the statute.

Re Hollister Bank, 27 N. Y. 393; Cohn v. Neeves, 40 Wis. 393; Moyer v. Pennsylvania Slate Co. 71 Pa. 293; Lane's Appeal, 105 Pa. 49, 51 Am. Rep. 166; Detroit v. Chaffee, 70 Mich. 80; Detroit v. Putnam, 45 Mich. 265.

The language of the statute is not general but special, and limited to the Secretary of the Interior and the General Land Office. But even if it had been general, it should be remembered that language though apparently general, may be limited in its operation and effect, where it may be gathered from the object and purpose of the whole statute that the language was designed to apply only to certain persons or things, or was to operate only under certain conditions or to be enforced only by certain officers. McKee v. United States, 164 U. S. 287, 41 Messrs. Russell Duane, Harvey Spald- | L. ed. 437; Jones v. Jones, 18 Me. 308; Muring, and E. W. Spalding for appellant. ray v. Gibson, 15 How. 421, 14 L. ed. 755;

[ocr errors]

Brewer v. Blougher, 14 Pet. 198, 10 L. ed. | diction to hear and determine, among other 417; United States v. Saunders, 22 Wall. 492, 22 L. ed. 736; Torrance v. McDougald, 12 Ga. 526; Greenhow v. James, 80 Va. 636. [493] *Mr. Justice Peckham, after stating the facts, delivered the opinion of the court: Two questions arise in this case: (1) Whether the court of claims had jurisdiction of the claim; and (2) whether, if it had, what is the true construction of the act of June 16, 1880, requiring the repayment to the purchaser of the excess of $1.25 per acre [494]* where the land purchased has afterwards been found not to be within the limits of a railroad land grant.

The ground upon which the learned court of claims decided that it had no jurisdiction in the case was that the remedy afforded by the act of 1880 to obtain the repayment of the excess of the price was exclusive of any other. Thus if the Secretary of the Interior erroneously construed the act and refused payment in a case where the claimant was justly entitled thereto, under its provisions, the claimant would be without redress, even though there were no dispute in regard to the facts, and the decision of the Secretary was a plain mistake in regard to the law. In this construction as to the jurisdiction of the court of claims, we are unable to agree.

The first section of the act of June 16, 1880, chap. 244, does not refer to such a case as this. Section 2 of that act reads in full as follows:

"In all cases where homestead or timber culture or desert land entries or other entries of public lands have heretofore or shall hereafter be canceled for conflict, or where, from any cause, the entry has been erroneously allowed and cannot be confirmed, the Secretary of the Interior shall cause to be repaid to the person who made such entry, or to his heirs or assigns, the fees and commissions, amount of purchase money and excesses paid upon the same, upon the surrender of the duplicate receipt and the execution of a proper relinquishment of all claims to said land, whenever such entry shall have been duly canceled by the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and in all cases where parties have paid double the minimum price for land which has afterwards been found not to be within the limits of a railroad land grant, the excess of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre shall in like manner be repaid to the purchaser thereof, or to his heirs or assigns."

things, all claims founded upon any law of
Congress. As the claim in this case is
founded upon the law of Congress of 1880,
it would seem that under this grant of ju-
risdiction the court of claims had power to
hear and determine the claim in question.
The act of 1887 was not, however, the first
act giving jurisdiction to the court of claims
in regard to a law of Congress. It had the
same power when the case of Nichols v. Unit-
cd States, 7 Wall. 122 [19: 125], was de-
cided, and a question of jurisdiction arose in
that case. It there appeared that Nichols
& Company were merchants in New York,
and they made in 1847 an importation from
abroad upon which duties were imposed on
the quantity invoiced. The importation con-
sisted of casks of liquor, and a portion of
the liquor had leaked out during the voyage,
and was thus lost, and consequently was never
imported in fact into the United States. Not-
withstanding these circumstances Nichols &
Company paid the duties as imposed under
the invoice, and without any deduction for
leakage, and made no protest in the matter.
An act of Congress of February 26, 1845,
provided that no action should be maintained
against any collector to recover duties paid
unless a protest had been made in
writing and signed by the claimant at the
time of the payment. Where a protest
had been made the importer could thereafter
bring a suit against the collector for a recov-
ery of the money so paid, and the suit would
be tried in due course of law. The importers
having made no protest, and being therefore
unable under the provisions of the law to
bring suit against the collector, brought suit
in the court of claims to recover back the
overpayment, upon the ground that the court
had power to hear and determine all claims
founded upon any law of Congress, or upon
any regulation of the executive department,
or upon any contract, express or implied,
with the government of the United States.[496]
This court held that the court of claims had"
no jurisdiction, and in the course of the opin-
ion of the court, which was delivered by Mr.
Justice Davis, and in giving the grounds
upon which the court denied jurisdiction, it
was said:

"Congress has from time to time passed laws on the subject of revenue, which not only provide for the manner of its collection, but also point out a way in which errors can be corrected. These laws constitute a system which Congress has provided for the benefit of those persons who complain of illegal assessments of taxes and illegal exactions of duties. In the administration of the tariff laws, as we have seen, the Secretary of the Treasury decides what is due on a specific war-importation of goods, but if the importer is dissatisfied with this decision, he can contest the question in a suit against the collector, if, before he pays the duties, he tells the officers of the law, in writing, why he obiects to their payment.".

Section 3 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to make the payments provided for in the act out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, and by section 4 the Secretary is authorized to draw his rant on the Treasury in order to carry the provisions of the act into effect. [495] *The portion of section 2, which is in italics, is the part of the act upon which this claim is founded. The question is whether the court of claims has jurisdiction in this case upon the facts found.

And again the court said:

"Can it be supposed that Congress, after By the act of March 3, 1887 (24 Stat. at having carefully constructed a revenue sysL. 505), the court of claims is given juris-tem, with ample provisions to redress wrong,

« ForrigeFortsett »