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U.S. Supreme Court

Alaska Steamship Co. v. United States, 290 U.S. 256 (1933)

Alaska Steamship Co. v. United States

No. 56

Argued November 15, 1933

Decided December 4, 1933

290 U.S. 256


1. The provision of R.S., § 4578, for compensating vessel owners who bring home destitute seamen, though in terms applicable only where the transportation is by agreement with a consular officer and under his certificate, applies, by long administrative and legislative construction, to transportation from Alaska (where there are no consular officers) upon agreements and certificates of the local collector or deputy collector of customs. P. 290 U. S. 259.

2. Courts are slow to disturb the settled administrative construction of a statute long and consistently adhered to, especially where the declared will of the legislative body could not be carried out without the construction adopted. P. 290 U. S. 262.

3. The administrative construction must be accepted in the present case, since it has received congressional approval, implicit in the annual appropriations over a period of thirty-five years, the expenditure of which was effected by resort to the administrative practice, and in amendments by Congress to the statutes relating to transportation of destitute seamen without modification of that practice. P. 290 U. S. 262.

4. Under the Acts of Congress, the duty of providing transportation for shipwrecked mariners rests upon the Government; it is not a duty incumbent upon the owner of the shipwrecked vessel, and he is entitled to the statutory compensation for this service. P. 290 U. S. 262.

5. The practice that aids as an administrative construction is the practice of the department charged with carrying out the statute, in this case the practice of the Department of Commerce. P. 290 U. S. 264.

6. Rulings of the Comptroller General resting upon a proposition plainly contrary to law and in conflict with the unambiguous statute in question are without weight as administrative constructions. P. 290 U. S. 264.

63 F.2d 398 reversed.

Page 290 U. S. 257

Certiorari to review the affirmance of a judgment dismissing a suit against the United States under the Tucker Act. Opinion of the District Court: 60 F.2d 135.

Page 290 U. S. 258

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