UNITED STATES V. SHAW.
UNITED STATES V. SHAW et
(Circuit Court, S. D. Georgia, E. D. January 15, 1889.) 1.
The limitation as to amount in a controversy necessary to give the circuit court jurisdiction, fixed by section 1 of the act of March H, 1887, (24 St. at Large,) does not apply to suits in which the United States is plaintiff or peti. tioner.
The old law embraced in section 629, Rev. St., gave jurisdiction of all suits at common law and in equity where the United States are plaintiffs or peti· tioners, and it also contained an independent special clause, giving jurisdic· tion of all suits arising under the revenue, internal revenue, or postal laws. The act of March 3, 1887, conferred jurisdiction of all suits at common law or in equity where the United States are plaintiffs or petitioners, without reference to said special subjects. It is held, that the latter provision does not repeal by implication the grant of jurisdiction over the special subjects mentioned in the independent clause of the original statute.
SAME-AcTIONS BY GOVERNMENT.
It is a settled policy on the part of the United States to have its leg-al rights determined in its own courts,-a policy founded upon sound and vital reasons.
The right to sue in its own courts, having once attached, becomes a prerogative rig-ht, and congress will not be presumed to intend to deprive the go vof such right, unless the intention appears in plain and unambiguous terms.
When. under one of two possible constructions, a statute would divest the public of a right. violate a principle of settled policy, and avoid the methods of procedure which have been clearly indicated by many acts of previons legislation, in such case, if there is doubt about the proper construction, the doubt should be resolved in favor of the government. (Syllabus by the Court.)
Du Pont Guerry, for the Unitea States. John M. Guenard and Denmark & Adams, for defendants.
SPEER, J. This is a suit upon a postmaster's bond. It appears upon the face of the declaration that the amount in controversy is less than $2,000. Defendants demur to the declaration, and move to dismiss the suit for want of jurisdiction. Counsel for defendants contend that if there is any jurisdiction to try this cause, it must be found in some act of congress now of force expressly conferring that jurisdiction upon this particular courtj that where congress has not expressly conferred upon the courts the entire judicial power inherent in the government under the constitution, the jurisdiction of the court is limited to the express grant, and may not be helped by the residual ungranted powers that may be found in the constitution. In support of this position they rely upon the following authorities: Kempe v. Kennedy, 5 Cranch, 185; Kennedy v. Bank, 8 How. 611; Ex petrte Watkins, 3 Pet. 207; McIntire v. Wood,7 Cranch, .506; Kendall v. U. S., 12 Pet. 616; Cary v. Curtis,3 v.39F.no.9-28
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UNITED STATES 'D. SHAW.
inevitably induce the conclusion that the limitation as to amount does not apply to land-grant suits, were it not for another provision in a different section of the act in regard to land-grant suits, which it is unnecessary to discuss here. See Spear, Rem. Causes, § 21. Again, if we look to the judiciary act of 1789, as codified in section 629, Rev. St., we find that ample provision was made for suits by the government. Thus it was provided that where the United States are l)laintifl's or petitioners, the circuit courts shall have jurisdiction of all suits at common law, without regard to amount, and of all suits in equity where the matter in dispute, exclusive of interest and costs, exceeds the sum or value of $500. Subsections 2, 3, § 629, Rev. S1. And besides these provisions there is a separate and independent clause granting jurisdiction without, regard to amount of all suits at law or in equity arising under the revenue, internal revenue, or postal laws, excepting suits for penalties and forfeitures, and excepting, also, admiralty causes. Subsection 4, § 629, Rev. St. As the law then existed, there can be no doubt that the government could have maintained a suit, either at common law or in equity, arising under the revenue, internal revenue, or postal laws, without regard to amount, under the express provisions of subdivision 4, and wholly independent of the jurisdiction granted, or limitation as to amount contained in subdivisions 2, 3, § 6,29, Rev. S1. Therefore, whether the provision in the act of March 3, 1887, giving jurisdiction of all suits of a civil nature at common law or in equity in which the ,United States are plaintiffs or petitioners, enlarges the jurisdiction by removing the limitation as to amount in equity causes, to-wit, $500, or ,whether the provision raised the limitation as to amount to $2,000, both in common-law and in equity suits brought by the governmemt, in either case, the provision embraced only the subject-matter contained, in subdivisions 2, 3, § 629, Rev. St., viz., suits at law or in equity in which the United States are plaintiffs or petitioners. It could not, therefore, be held to repeal by implication the jurisdiction over the special subject-matter provided for by subdivision 4 of the same section, to-wit, postal suits, etc. Hess v. Reynolds, 113 U. S. 73, 5 Sup. C1. Rep. 377; Venable v. Richards, 105 U. S. 636. Again, when we look to the provisions of the constitution, the judiciary act ,of 1789, the subsequent amendatory statutes, the acts organizing the court of claims, and mallY other statutes bearing upon the question, we find a settled policy on the part of the United States to have its controversies determined in its own courts,-a policy founded upon sound and substantial reasons, vital to its governmental powers. The right, once attached, becomes a prerogative of the government, and an act of congress ,will not be construed to surrender such right, "except by special and' particular words." Jones v. U. S., 1 Ct. C1. 383. It was insisted in the argument for defendants that the district court is by section 563, Rev. St., given jurisdiction of all suits at common law brought by the United States, and of all causes of action arising under the postal laws, without regard to the amount in controversy, and that congress may well be presumed to haveiutended by the act of March 3, 1887,
to relieve the circuit court of snch cases. It is undoubtedly true; iHt be c6bcededthat the right of the government to sue must be expressly conferred, and that the act of March 3, 1887, raised the jurisdictional limit as to amount in all government suits in the circuit court to $2,000, that there would be a very large class of suits in equity over which neither the circuit nor the district courts would have jurisdiction, and the govermnent would be compelled to resort to the state courts to assert its rights. This follows, for, except in suits under the poslallaws, or to enforce a lien upon real estate under the internal revenue laws, the district court is given, by section 563, Rev. St., no equity jurisdiction in suits brought by the United States. Could it have been the intention of congress to repeal the pre-existing laws upon this subject by implication, and force the government to relinquish all rights, or sue in the state courts in so large a class of cases, or in any case? This court can never concede such a proposition. Congress wif not be presumed to have intended to deprive the government of such a right, unless the intention is expressed in plain and unequivocal words. The rule in regard to the repeal of a statute by implication does not have the same application to the government as to an individual. "'Where an act of parliament is made for the public good, the advancement of religion and justice, and to prevent injury and wrong, the king shall be bound by such act, though not particularly named therein. But where a statute is general, and thereby any prerogative, right, title, or interest is divested, or taken from the king, in such case he shall not be bound, unless the statute is made by express words to extend to him." Bac. Abr. tit. "Prerogative"E. 5; U. S. v. Knight, 14 Pet. 301; Finkv. O'Neil, 106 U. S. 272,1 Sup. Ct. Rep. 325; Green v. U. S. 9 Wall. 655: U. S. v. Herron, 20 Wall. 251; Bank v. U. S., 19 Wall. 228. The principles involved in these propositions are the same. And when a statute which proposes to regulate proceedings in suits, is general, and by a doubtful application of its terms to government suits would divest the public of rights, and violate a principle of public policy, and would make provisions contrary to the policy which the government has indicated by many acts of previous legislation, in such case the statute ought not to be construed to impair the settled prerogatives of the government. U. S. v. Knight, 81tpra. It follows, therefore, if there is any doubt as to whether the limitation as to amount in the act of March 3, 1887, was intended to apply to suits brought by the government, it ought to be construed not to apply. Indeed, it has been held that without any act of congress for the pllrpose,wherever the United States have rights which ought to be preserved, and for which an individual, under similar circumstances, could maintain an ordinary civil action, the "Cnited States may maintain its rights by such a suit brought in its own name, at least in some court. U. S. v. Bm'ker, 1 Paine, 156. And this court is of the opinion that when the government has definitely acquired the right to sue in any of its courts exercising general judicial power, this right will be held permanent in its character, and will be maintained, subject only to such express and distinct limitations as congress may thereafter impose. Such right is
not affected by implication, save in those general statutes regulating pro· cedure which do not divest the public of any right, and do not violate any principle of public policy. The demurrer is overruled.
(District Court, 1.
OI,AIMS AGAINST UNITED STATES-FREl'iCH SPOLIATION-To WHOM ACTIOl'l ACCRUES.
A claim of a citizen of France against the United States for cotton taken during the civil war was. under a treaty between the two nations, submitted to a commission for adjudication, by his widow and administratrix. The commission found and reported the sum due, but withheld one-sixth of the amoun1 for the reason that one of the three heirs of the claimant was an American citizen, whereupon the heir .sued the United States for her portion so with· held. lIeld, that plaintiff had no cause of action, as, if any existed, it accrued to the administratrix. The cause of action for such demand is not against the French government, as it received no money under the award for plaintiff's benefit.
2. SAME-'VItEN FREl'iCH GOVERNMEl'iT NOT LIABLE.
SAlIm-JURISDICTIO:'iI OF DISTRICT COURT.
After the commission had passed upon the claim it was no longer a "war claim," and the district court has jurisdiction of an action for its recovery. The award does not render the plaintiff's demand reB adjudicata, as her cause of action was never submitted to the commission,
SAME-AwARD OF COMMISSION-RES ADJUDICATA.
At Law. Action by Rosalie E. Bodemiiller against the United States. for money alleged to be due her as one of the heirs of her father's succession. Alex. Porter Morse, Henry L. Garkmd, L. Dupre, and George A. King, for plaintiff. M. S. Jones, Dist. Atty BOARMAN 1 J. This case was submitted in pursuance of the ad March 3,1888, which provides for suits against the government in certain cases. The facts show as follows: .Tean Prevot, at the time of his death in Louisiana, was a French citizen. He left a widow, born in France, and three children, born in Louisiana. When he died he had a claim against the United States for $4,695.94. In 1884, the widow, Teressa Prevot. was appointed in the probate court ()f Louisiana. and qualified as administratrix of the deceased husband's succession. Among the property of the deceased waR inventoried the claim of $4,695.94 against the government. The administratrix successfully prosecuted said claim before the French-American commission, which was provided for in a treaty made in 1880 between the United States and the French republic. That commission, composed as it was of one citizen of France, one of Brazil, and one of the United States, in passing upon said claim, made the following award: