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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Innerarity, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 595 595 (1873)

United States v. Innerarity

86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 595




Under the Act of June 22, 1860, "for the final adjustment of private land claims in the States of Florida, Louisiana, and Missouri," &c. (a temporary act, which having expired was temporarily revived by an Act of March 2, 1867), a person who files his petition in time, claiming land to which he afterwards discovers that he has no title, cannot, by a supplemental petition acknowledging his mistake and showing who the right owner is, make his petition enure to the benefit of such right owner, who has let pass the time for asserting his title under the act.

An act of Congress, passed June 22d, 1860, [Footnote 1] provided for the adjustment of land claims in Louisiana, emanating from foreign governments prior to the cession of the region to the United States. The act was temporary in its nature, and, having expired, was revived for three years by an Act of March 2, 1867. [Footnote 2] This new act having also expired, a revivor was again made for three years by an Act of June 10, 1872. [Footnote 3] Under the second of these acts, Eloise Innerarity and others, alleging that they were the sole heirs of James Innerarity, deceased, on the 1st of March, 1870, filed their bill in the court below, averring that they as such sole heirs were entitled to a judicial recognition of a Spanish patent of 20,000 arpents of land in the present Parish of East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, made to one Ramos, and that after the issuing of the patent the land became the property of their ancestor.

To this petition there was a general demurrer filed.

Subsequently, on the 27th of November, 1871, a supplemental petition was filed, alleging that since the filing of the original petition the petitioners had discovered that the true right to the lands claimed and to such confirmation existed, not in themselves, as they had heretofore averred and had sufficient reasons to believe, but in other persons, to-wit, the heirs of John Watkins.

To this supplemental petition the United States demurred,

Page 86 U. S. 596

for the reason that the time within which by the Act of 1860 and the Act of 1867, petitions for the confirmation of titles thereunder could be brought, had expired at the time of filing the supplemental petition, and that no new parties could be substituted thereafter, and that the heirs of Innerarity, in and by their supplemental petition, judicially confessed that they had not, and had not at the time of filing their original petition, any right to the lands claimed therein.

This demurrer was overruled, and a decree was made in favor of the representatives of John Watkins for a portion of the land.

From this decree the United States took this appeal.

Page 86 U. S. 597

MR. JUSTICE HUNT delivered the opinion of the Court.

It appears that the allegations of the petition were made in ignorance of the facts, and that Innerarity really had no claim in law or in equity to the land described. This necessarily disposes of the case as to his heirs.

The attempt to set up a claim under this petition or a supplemental petition by Innerarity's heirs in favor of the heirs of John Watkins, cannot be sustained. It does not appear that Watkins derived title from Innerarity, or that Innerarity ever had any title. The case is simply this: Innerarity's heirs have filed their petition in time, but have no title. Watkins's heirs have a title, but have not filed a petition for its allowance. Watkins's title cannot be interposed by the present petitioners. Such practice is unknown. If a suit be commenced by A. to recover land or money, he failing on the merits, cannot bring into his suit a new plaintiff, especially one whose action, if then commenced, would be barred by the statute of limitations. If otherwise, the same suit can be continued indefinitely, constantly making new plaintiffs, until someone shall be found who has a meritorious claim. It would be a practical abrogation of the limitation of the statute. The act of 1867 has been further extended, and the heirs of Watkins must make an original application in their own names. We understand the case of United States v. Patterson [Footnote 4] to be a decisive authority against the present claim.

Decree reversed and the case remitted to the District Court of Louisiana, with directions to dismiss the petition.

[Footnote 1]

12 Stat. at Large 85, § 11.

[Footnote 2]

14 id. 544.

[Footnote 3]

17 id. 378.

[Footnote 4]

56 U. S. 15 How. 12.

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