MASON V. UNITED STATES, 260 U. S. 545 (1923)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mason v. United States, 260 U.S. 545 (1923)

Mason v. United States

Nos. 117, 115, 116, 114, 104, 113, 111, and 112

Argued November 17, 20, 1922

Decided January 2, 1923

260 U.S. 545


1. The order of December 15, 1908, whereby, to conserve the public interests and in aid of contemplated legislation, specified public lands in Louisiana were "withdrawn from settlement and entry, or other form of appropriation," was within the power of the Executive. P. 260 U. S. 553. United States v. Midwest Oil Co., 236 U. S. 459.

2. The words "other form of appropriation" in this order include appropriations by mining locations. P. 260 U. S. 553.

3. The ejusdem generis rule is a rule of construction resorted to only as an aid in ascertaining the meaning of doubtful words and phrases; it will not be so employed as to render general words in a statute meaningless by assigning them to a genus fully occupied by the specific terms employed. P. 260 U. S. 553.

4. Defendants who entered upon parcels of the withdrawn lands under mining locations, and extracted oil in "moral good faith," in the honest though mistaken belief that the order of withdrawal was void, were liable in damages under the laws of Louisiana only for the value of the oil taken after deducting the cost of drilling

Page 260 U. S. 546

and equipping and operating the wells by means of which it was extracted. P. 260 U. S. 555.

5. A specific finding of fact, made by a master after seeing and hearing the witnesses, and supported by evidence, will be accepted here. P. 260 U. S. 556.

6. Location of one hundred and sixty acres of oil land by an association of eight persons and lease of the tract on the same day to a corporation, in pursuance of an understanding had prior to the location, is not fraudulent under the federal mining laws. P. 260 U. S. 557.

7. A general rule of state statutory law for measuring damages in cases of conversion is binding on the federal courts sitting in the state in suits in equity involving title to land there situate and seeking to restrain continuing trespasses upon it, in which damages for conversion of oil wrongfully extracted from the land are claimed as an incident to the equitable relief. P. 260 U. S. 557.

8. The enforcement of such a statute in an equity suit does not trammel or impair the equity jurisdiction of the federal courts. P. 260 U. S. 558.

9. Revised Statutes, § 721, providing that the laws of the states shall be rules of decision in trials at common law in the courts of the United States, is merely declarative of the rule that would exist in its absence, and does not by implication exclude such laws as rules of decision in equity suits. P. 260 U. S. 558.

10. Where some of a number of joint trespassers extract oil from land (in Louisiana) and pay royalties thereon to the others who share none of the cost of mining, all are liable to the landowner for the amount of the royalties without, any deduction of expenses, but a decree against all for the royalties and against the operating trespassers for the net proceeds of the oil extracted, insofar as it allows a double recovery of the royalties, is erroneous. P. 260 U. S. 559.

273 F.1d 5, 142, reversed.

Appeals from decrees of the circuit court of appeals affirming with modifications decrees of the district court in suits brought by the United States to confirm its title to various tracts of public land in Louisiana, to restrain continuing trespasses, and to secure accountings for the value of oil and gas wrongfully extracted.

Page 260 U. S. 551

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