HOLZENDORF V. HAY, 194 U. S. 373 (1904)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Holzendorf v. Hay, 194 U.S. 373 (1904)

Holzendorf v. Hay

No. 210

Argued April 12-13, 1904

Decided May 16, 1904

194 U.S. 373


The "matter in dispute," as respects a money demand, as employed in the statutes regulating appeals from the courts of the District of Columbia, has relation to justiciable demands, and must be money or some right, the value of which can be ascertained in money, and which appears by the record to be of the requisite pecuniary value.

Where the averments in a petition that a mandamus be issued directing the Secretary of State to assert for the petitioner a claim against a foreign government do not state a cause of action under the principles of law of false imprisonment in this country, and do not show that the alleged wrong was actionable in such foreign country, the right to have the claim asserted is purely conjectural, and not susceptible of pecuniary estimate, and cannot be said to have the value necessary to give this Court jurisdiction, and the writ must be dismissed.

The relator, plaintiff in error, filed his petition in the Supreme

Page 194 U. S. 374

Court of the District of Columbia, praying a writ of mandamus directed to the then and present Secretary of the United States. In substance it was averred that Holzendorf, prior to and since May, 1898, had been a naturalized citizen of the United States, and while on a visit to Germany, his native country, he was wrongfully imprisoned in an asylum for the insane at Dalldorf, near Berlin, from May 11, 1898, to July 8, 1899, when he was released by the judgment of a German court, as being "perfectly sound in mind and body." The grievance complained of was alleged to have been the act of the German Empire, and it was averred that said grievance "was manifestly in contempt of his rights as a citizen of the United States," which "oppressively deprived him of liberty, reputation, and time, greatly to his cost, loss, damage, and injury." Alleging a refusal by the defendant in mandamus "to proceed, on the part of the United States, to seek to obtain redress of grievance in behalf of your petitioner," it was prayed that a writ of mandamus issue

"addressed to said defendant, John Hay, the Secretary aforesaid, commanding and requiring him forthwith to institute vigorous and proper proceedings against the Empire of Germany, or Kingdom of Prussia, or both -- that is to say, against the Emperor -- for the recovery of five hundred thousand dollars damages in behalf of your petitioner."

The matter was heard, and an order was entered, dismissing the petition. An appeal was allowed, and the Court of Appeals of the District affirmed the judgment. 20 App.D.C. 576. By writ of error, the cause was then brought to this Court.

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