UNITED STATES V. ADAMS, 73 U. S. 101 (1867)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Adams, 73 U.S. 6 Wall. 101 101 (1867)

United States v. Adams

73 U.S. (6 Wall.) 101


1. The Act of March 3, 1863, concerning the Court of Claims, confers a right of appeal in cases involving over $3,000, which the party desiring to appeal can exercise by his own volition, and which is not dependent on the discretion of that court.

2. When the party desiring to appeal signifies his intention to do so in any appropriate mode within the ninety days allowed by that statute for taking an appeal, the limitation of time ceases to affect the case, and such is also the effect of the third rule of the Supreme Court concerning such appeals.

3. It is no ground for dismissing such appeal that the statement of facts found by the Court of Claims is not a sufficient compliance with the rules prescribed by the Supreme Court on that subject.

4. But the Supreme Court will, of its own motion, while retaining jurisdiction o� such cases, remand the records to the Court of Claims for a proper finding.

5. A finding which merely recites the evidence in the case, consisting mainly of letters and affidavits, is not a compliance with the rule; but a finding that a certain instrument was not made in fraud or mistake is a proper finding without reporting any of the evidence on which the fact was found.

These were three motions: the first two to dismiss appeals from the Court of Claims, one in the case of Adams, and one in the case of Johnson; the third, in the case of Clark, a motion for a certiorari designed to require that court to make a more extended statement of the evidence on which they had made a particular finding. The motion in the first two cases resting on more grounds than one; in the third, on one ground only.

To understand the cases well, it is necessary to refer to the statutes and rules which regulate appeals from the Court of Claims. An Act of March 3, 1863, provides that

"Either party may appeal to this Court &c., where the amount in controversy exceeds $3,000, under such regulations as the said Supreme Court may direct: provided that such appeal shall be taken within ninety days after the rendition of such judgment or decree. "

Page 73 U. S. 102

At the December Term 1865, the Supreme Court prescribed certain regulations by which appeals might be taken.

The first rule prescribes that the Court of Claims shall make a finding of the ultimate facts or propositions which the evidence shall establish, in the nature of a special verdict, and not the evidence on which these ultimate facts are founded, and also conclusions of law, which findings of fact and conclusions of law shall be certified to the Supreme Court as part of the record.

The third rule prescribes that

"In all cases an order of allowance of appeal by the Court of Claims or the chief justice thereof, in vacation, is essential, and the limitation of time for granting such appeal shall cease to run from the time an application is made for the allowance of appeal."

The forty-eighth rule of the Court of Claims provides that

"Whenever such application for an appeal is made in vacation, the same shall be filed with the clerk of this Court, and such filing shall be deemed the date of the application for an appeal."

The Act of March 3, 1863, provides

"That the said Court of Claims shall hold one annual session, commencing on the first Monday in October in each year, and continuing as long as may be necessary for the prompt disposition of the business of the court,"

and an Act of March 17, 1866, "that the regular session of the Court of Claims shall hereafter commence on the first Monday of December, in each year."

In this state of statutes and rules, judgment was rendered by the Court of Claims in the case of Adams in his favor on the 19th March, and in the case of Johnson on the 25th. The court adjourned on the 20th of May to the 25th of June. On the 10th of June, the solicitor of the United States for the Court of Claims, Mr. Norton, filed in the office of the clerk a paper in the case of Adams of which the following is a copy:

"Theodore Adams v. United States"


"The United States, by E. P. Norton, its solicitor, makes application to the Honorable Court of Claims for an appeal of the

Page 73 U. S. 103

case of Theodore Adams v. United States to the Supreme Court of the United States."


"Solicitor for the United States"

A similar paper was filed in the case of Johnson at the same time. On the first day that the court was in actual session, to-wit, on the 25th day of June, the solicitor moved for an allowance of these appeals, and on the next day the court made an order allowing them. The order was thus made more than ninety days after the judgments were rendered.

In these two cases, therefore, grounds of motion to dismiss were:

1. Because the appeal must be taken within ninety days after the rendition of the decree, and in this case the said period has elapsed.

2. Because the taking of an appeal in cases decreed by the Court of Claims consists of two things: 1st. Of an application for an appeal, which may be made to the court in term time, or by filing an application in the method prescribed by the rules when made in vacation. 2d. Of an allowance of the appeal so applied for by the court, and that both the application for and the allowance of the appeal must be made within the said term of ninety days from the rendition of the decree.

3. Because the application made for an appeal in this case, and filed in the clerk's office June 10, 1867, is irregular and void, having been made in term time, and not in vacation, as contemplated by the rules of court.

And in all three of the cases an additional ground was assigned, viz.:

That the record had not been made up and settled, as the first rule of the Supreme Court, made at December Term 1865, required.

As to this part of the matter it appeared:

1. In the Adams case, that the findings were put under twenty different numbered paragraphs; that under one of

Page 73 U. S. 104

them, a joint resolution of Congress was set out in full, and under others, parts of acts of Congress. Withal, the finding made a sequent, orderly and intelligible statement, and was comprised within less than six pages 8vo, chiefly of small pica type.

2. In the case of Johnson, the form of finding was different. Somewhat less than two pages were occupied with narrative and clear account of a settlement by him upon valuable and unoccupied public lands in Washington Territory, where he erected buildings, which the government of the United States, operating against hostile Indians, had taken to its own use. But the rest of the finding consisted of nine pages of government correspondence from the Land Office, Department of the Interior, Register's Office at Vancouver, with various affidavits from settlers and others, a joint resolution of Congress, and many other documents, about twenty in all, set out in extenso, signatures &c., with very little in the nature of a finding of ultimate facts. It ended with a succinct statement of the court's conclusions of law, on what was called "findings of fact."

3. In the case of Clark -- where the motion was for a certiorari to require the Court of Claims to make a more extended statement of the evidence on which they found -- no documents or evidence were set out. On the contrary, the petition having set forth that the petitioner having agreed by correspondence, with its authorized agents, to furnish to the government a certain quantity of potatoes in a certain manner, the government agents had afterwards prepared formal articles of agreement, which he signed without advice of counsel, and not knowing at the time but that they truly and fairly stated the actual agreement of the parties, and that the contract was not truly stated in the articles, but by mistake or fraud was misstated -- the finding on this head ran thus:

"That the allegations of fraud or mistake in the concoction of the written agreement is not sustained by the evidence in the case. "

Page 73 U. S. 107

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