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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Dunnington, 146 U.S. 338 (1892)

United States v. Dunnington

Nos. 51, 52

Argued November 18, 1892

Decided December 8, 1892

146 U.S. 338


The estate forfeited by proceedings to judgment under the Confiscation Act of July 17, 1862, 12 Stat. 589, c.195, and the joint resolution of the same date, 12 Stat. 627, is the life estate of the offender, the fee remaining in him after the confiscation, but without power of alienation until his disability is removed.

The conflicting cases on the subject of proceedings under that act reviewed, and Illinois Central Railroad v. Bosworth, 133 U. S. 92, and Jenkins v. Collard, 145 U. S. 546, followed.

A judicial condemnation, for the use of the United States, of land in Washington which had been so confiscated and sold, made during the lifetime of the offender from whom it had been taken under the Confiscation Act, is held to operate upon the fee as well as upon the life estate, assuming that due and legal notice of the proceedings for the condemnation were given.

The appraised value of the property in such proceedings for condemnation represents the whole fee, and the interests, both present and prospective, of every person concerned in it.

By the payment into court of the amount of the appraised value of the property so condemned, the United States was discharged from its whole liability, and was not even entitled to notice of the order for the distribution of the money.

This was a petition to recover from the United States the sum of $12,644, the alleged value of lot 3, square 688, in the City of Washington, condemned for the enlargement of the capitol grounds. The following facts were found by the Court of Claims:

1. Charles W. C. Dunnington, the ancestor of the claimants,

Page 146 U. S. 339

was, on April 2, 1852, and subsequently up to June 29, 1863, seised or well entitled in fee simple of and to lot No. 3, in square No. 688, on the plats of the squares and lots of the City of Washington, with the improvements, buildings, rights, privileges, appurtenances, and hereditaments, containing 5,572 square feet. Said Dunnington, the ancestor, died August 14, 1887, leaving as his sole heirs the claimants in this case, as set out in their petition.

2. May 12, 1863, proceedings in rem, under the confiscation Act of July 17, 1862, and joint resolution of the same date, 12 Stat. 589, c. 195, were begun by the defendants in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia to confiscate said lot as the property of Dunnington, who was in rebellion against the United States. Under these proceedings, the lot was duly condemned as enemy's property, and exposed to public sale at which A. R. Shepherd became the purchaser and entered into possession.

3. Under the Act of May 8, 1872, 17 Stat. 83, c. 140, § 6, proceedings were commenced in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia at the instance of the defendant for the acquisition of land to enlarge the grounds around the capitol, in which contemplated enlargement said lot No. 3 was included.

June 11, 1872, the Secretary of the Interior informed the court that he was unable to obtain the titles to said lands by mutual agreement with the owners. Thereupon the court appointed commissioners

"to make a just and equitable appraisement of the cash value of the several interests of each and every owner of the real estate and improvements necessary to be taken for public use, and make return to said court."

October 16, 1872, said commissioners filed their report in which the cash value of said lot No. 3 is appraised at $1.50 a square foot, and the improvements thereon at $1,500. They also report that said lot contained 5,572 square feet, thus making the whole value of lot and improvements $9,858.

On the same day, said appraisement was approved and adopted by the court, and the same was reported to the Secretary of the Interior.

March 15, 1873, the court made the following order:

Page 146 U. S. 340

"Whereas, it appears to the court that the owner or owners of each of said lots and parts of lots have failed and neglected to demand of the Secretary of the Interior the said appraised cash value of said lots and parts of lots, respectively, for fifteen days after the appraisement thereof by this court, it is therefore ordered that leave be, and is hereby, granted to said relator to deposit the said appraised values of said lots and parts of lots in this court, to the credit of the owners thereof, respectively, subject to be drawn therefrom only upon an order of this court for payment to the parties entitled, and it is further ordered that upon the depositing of the money by the relator as hereinbefore provided, and notice thereof filed with the clerk of this court, possession of the property for which said deposit is made may be taken by the United States."

4. March 31, 1873, in pursuance of the above order, a certificate of deposit for the amount of said appraisement was filed with the court by the Secretary of the Interior.

Thereupon defendants took possession of said lot, and the same is now embraced in the ornamental grounds about the capitol.

5. April 3, 1873, upon the petition of the heirs of Martin King, deceased, the appraised value of said lot and improvements, amounting to $9,858, was, by order of the court, paid to William F. Mattingly, attorney of record for said heirs.

Said King was the vendee, through several intermediate conveyances, of said A. R. Shepherd.

6. The cash value of said lot No. 3 on August 14, 1887, was at the rate of $2 a square foot, $11,144; improvements, $1,500; making together, $12,644.

Upon the foregoing finding of facts, the court decided as a conclusion of law that the claimants were entitled to recover $9,858, for which judgment was entered. 24 Ct.Cl. 404. Both parties appealed to this Court.

Page 146 U. S. 343

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