147 U.S. 282 (1892), 1197, Shoemaker v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 1197
Citation:147 U.S. 282, 13 S.Ct. 361, 37 L.Ed. 170
Party Name:Shoemaker v. United States
Case Date:January 16, 1893
Court:United States Supreme Court

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147 U.S. 282 (1892)

13 S.Ct. 361, 37 L.Ed. 170



United States

No. 1197

United States Supreme Court

January 16, 1893




Land taken in a city for public parks and squares by authority of law, is taken for a public use.

The extent to which such property shall be taken for such use rests wholly in legislative discretion, subject only to the restraint that just compensation must be made.

The proviso in the Maryland act of cession of the District of Columbia, that

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nothing therein contained should be

so construed to vest in the United States any right of property in the soil, as to affect the right of individuals therein, otherwise than the same shall or may be transferred by such individuals to the United States

has no reference to the power of eminent domain which belongs to the United States as the grantee in the act of cession.

The United States possess full and unlimited jurisdiction, both of a political and municipal nature, over the District of Columbia.

It is within the constitutional power of Congress, in legislating for the creation of a commission charged with public duties, to provide that some members of it shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and that other members of it shall consist of officers in the service of the United States, who had been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, when the duties of the new office are germane to those of the offices already held by the latter.

Congress may increase the duties of an existing office without rendering it necessary that the incumbent should be again nominated, confirmed and appointed.

The approval by the President of the price to be paid by the United States for private land, condemned for public use in the exercise of the right of eminent domain, is not a judicial act.

An intention expressed by Congress not to go beyond a sum named as the aggregate in condemning land for a park in Washington is not a direction to appraisers to keep within any given limit in valuing any particular piece of property.

It is competent for the legislature, in providing for the cost of a public park, to assess a proportionate part of it upon property specially benefited.

In condemning lands for a public park, it is competent for the court, in the absence of a legislative direction prescribing the form of the oath to be administered to appraisers, to direct them to take an oath to

faithfully, justly and impartially appraise the value or values of said parcels of land, and of the respective interests therein, to the best of their skill and judgment.

In determining the values of lands so taken, appraisers should exercise their own judgment, derived from personal knowledge and inspection of the lands, as well as their knowledge derived from the evidence adduced by the parties.

An appellate court will not interfere with the report of commissioners or appraisers in such case to correct the amounts reported, except in case of gross error showing prejudice, corruption or plain mistake.

If there were any deposits of gold in the land condemned for the Rock Creek Park in Washington, those deposits were the property of the United States.

The filing of a map of the land proposed to be taken for the Rock Creek Park, made under § 3 of the Act of September 27, 1890, 26 Stat. 492, c.

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1001, was not a finality, and did not commit the commissioners to taking all the tracts included in it.

The owners of the tracts condemned for that park are not entitled to interest upon the respective sums assessed as damages for the taking.

Under the title of "An act authorizing the establishing of a public park in the District of Columbia," an Act of Congress was approved on September 27, 1890, 26 St. p. 492, c. 1001, directing that a tract of land lying on both sides of Rock Creek and within certain limits named in the act be secured as thereinafter set out, and be perpetually dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States. The act provides that the whole tract to be selected and condemned shall not exceed 2,000 acres, and that the cost thereof shall not be in excess of a certain amount appropriated.

It was provided that the Chief of Engineers of the United States Army, the Engineer Commissioner of the District of Columbia, and three citizens to be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate be, and they are by the act, created a commission (a majority of which shall have power always to act) to select the land for the said park of the quantity and within the limits prescribed, and to have the same surveyed by the assistant to the said engineer commissioner of the District of Columbia in charge of public highways.

The means to be employed in the ascertainment of the value of the lands to be selected, and in the acquirement of ownership and possession thereof by the United States, are provided for in sections 3, 4, and 5 of the act, which are as follows:

SEC. 3. That the said commission shall cause to be made an accurate map of said Rock Creek Park, showing the location, quantity, and character of each parcel of private property [13 S.Ct. 383] to be taken for such purpose, with the names of the respective owners inscribed thereon, which map shall be filed and recorded in the public records of the District of Columbia, and from and after the date of filing said map the several tracts and parcels of land embraced in said Rock Creek Park shall be held as condemned for public uses, and the title thereof

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vested in the United States, subject to the payment of just compensation, to be determined by said commission and approved by the President of the United States. provided that such compensation be accepted by the owner or owners of the several parcels of land.

That if the said commission shall be unable, by agreement with the respective owners, to purchase all of the land so selected and condemned, within thirty days after such condemnation at the price approved by the President of the United States, it shall at the expiration of such period of thirty days, make application to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, by petition at a general or special term, for an assessment of the value of such land as it has been unable to purchase.

Said petition shall contain a particular description of the property selected and condemned, with the name of the owner or owners thereof, if known, and their residences, so far as the same may be ascertained, together with a copy of the recorded map of the park, and the said court is hereby authorized and required, upon such application, without delay to notify the owners and occupants of the land, if known, by personal service, and, if unknown, by service by publication, and to ascertain and assess the value of the land so selected and condemned, by appointing three competent and disinterested commissioners to appraise the value or values thereof, and to return the appraisement to the court, and when the value or values of such land are thus ascertained, and the President of the United States shall decide the same to be reasonable, said value or values shall be paid to the owner or owners, and the United States shall be deemed to have a valid title to said land, and if, in any case, the owner or owners of any portion of said land shall refuse or neglect, after the appraisement of the cash value of said lands and improvements, to demand or receive the same from said court, upon depositing the appraised value in said court to the credit of such owner or owners, respectively, the fee simple shall in like manner be vested in the United States.

SEC. 4. That said court may direct the time and manner in which the possession of the property condemned shall be

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taken or delivered, and may, if necessary, enforce any [13 S.Ct. 364] order or issue any process for giving possession.

SEC. 5. That no delay in making an assessment of compensation or in taking possession shall be occasioned by any doubt which may arise as to the ownership of the property, or any part thereof, or as to the interests of the respective owners. In such cases, the court shall require a deposit of the money allowed as compensation for the whole property, or the part in dispute. In all cases, as soon as the said commission shall have paid the compensation assessed, or secured its payment by a deposit of money under the order of the court, possession of the property may be taken. All proceedings hereunder shall be in the name of the United States of America, and managed by the commission.

It is made the further duty of the commission, when they have ascertained the amount required to be paid for the land and for expenses, to assess the same upon the lands, lots, and blocks, situated in said district, specially benefited by reason of the location and improvement of said park, in proportion to such benefits to said property, and it is provided that if the commission shall find that the benefits are not equal to the cost and expenses of the land obtained for the park, they shall assess each tract specially benefited to the extent of the benefit thereto. If the proceeds of the assessment exceed the cost of the park, the excess is to be used in its improvement, if such excess shall not exceed the amount of $10,000, any part above that amount to be refunded ratably. The commission shall give due notice of the time and place of their meeting for the purpose of making such assessment for benefits, and all persons interested may appear and be heard. This assessment being duly made, it becomes the duty of the commission to apply to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia to have it confirmed. The court is given power, after notice...

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