MUSKRAT V. UNITED STATES, 219 U. S. 346 (1911)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346 (1911)

Muskrat v. United States

No. 330, 331

Argued November 30 and December 1, 2, 1910

Decided January 23, 1911

219 U.S. 346


The rule laid down in Heyburn's Case, 2 Dall. 409, that neither the legislative nor the executive branch of the Government of the United State can assign to the judicial branch any duties other than those that are properly judicial, to be performed in a judicial manner, applied, and held, that it is beyond the power of Congress to provide for a suit of this nature to be brought in the Court of

Page 219 U. S. 347

Claims with an appeal to this Court to test the constitutionality of prior acts of Congress, such a suit not being a case or controversy within the meaning of the Constitution.

From its earliest history, this Court has consistently declined to exercise ay powers other than those which are strictly judicial in their nature.

Under the Constitution of the United States, the exercise of judicial power is limited to cases and controversies.

A case or controversy, in order that the judicial power of the United States may be exercised thereon, implies the existence of present or possible adverse parties whose contentions are submitted to the court for adjudication. Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 431.

This court has no veto power on legislation enacted by Congress, and its right to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional can only be exercised when a proper case between opposing parties is submitted for determination. Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137.

The determination by the Court of Claims, and on appeal by this Court, of the constitutional validity of an act of Congress in a suit brought by authority of a subsequent act of Congress clothing such courts with jurisdiction for the avowed purpose of settling such question with provision for payment of expenses of the suit in certain contingencies out of funds in the Treasury of the United States, is not within the appellate jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution upon this Court; such a suit is not a case or controversy to which the judicial power extends, nor would such a judgment conclude private parties in actual litigation.

That part of the Act of March 1, 1907, c. 2285, 34 Stat. 1015, 1028, which requires of this Court action in its nature not judicial within the meaning of the Constitution exceeds the limitation of legislative authority, and is unconstitutional, and the suits brought thereunder are dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

This court cannot be required to decide cases over which it has not jurisdiction because other cases are pending involving the same point of law; to do so would require it to give opinions in the nature of advice concerning legislative action.

An act of Congress, conferring jurisdiction on the Court of Claims and on this Court on appeal, testing the constitutionality of prior acts of Congress will not be sustained as to the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims alone if it cannot be also sustained as to this Court.

44 Court of Claims 137 reversed with directions to dismiss the suit.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality and construction

Page 219 U. S. 348

of certain acts of Congress relating to the distribution and allotment of lands and funds of the Cherokee Indians, are stated in the opinion.

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