182 U.S. 419 (1901), 239, Reagan v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 239
Citation:182 U.S. 419, 21 S.Ct. 842, 45 L.Ed. 1162
Party Name:Reagan v. United States
Case Date:May 27, 1901
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 419

182 U.S. 419 (1901)

21 S.Ct. 842, 45 L.Ed. 1162



United States

No. 239

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1901

Argued April 15, 1901



In 1896, commissioners appointed by judges of the United States Court in the Indian Territory were inferior officers, not holding their offices for life, or by any fixed tenure, but subject to removal by the appointing power.

Commissioners appointed by that court prior to the Act of March 1, 1895, were entitled to reappointment under that act, but were removable at pleasure unless at that date, or at the date of removal, causes for removal were prescribed by law.

As no causes for removal had been prescribed by law at the date of the removal of claimant in 1896, he was subject to removal by the judge of his district, and the action of that judge in removing him was not open to review in an action for salary.

Appellant filed his petition in the Court of Claims October 13, 1897, and an amended petition October 27, 1899, seeking to recover salary as United States commissioner in the Indian Territory at the rate of $1,500 per annum, from February 1, 1896, to September 30, 1899, aggregating $5,375.

The findings of fact and conclusion of law were as follows:

I. The claimant was, on the 25th day of April, 1893, appointed by the United States Court for the Indian Territory United States commissioner within said territory, under the provisions of section 39 of an Act of Congress approved May 2, 1890, chapter 182 (1st Supp.Rev.Stat. 737), and upon the 1st day of March, 1895, the claimant was one of the present commissioners, then holding office under an existing appointment. On April 17, 1895, the following order was entered of record in the United States Court in the Indian Territory, Southern District:

It appearing from the records of this Court that the said William R. Reagan was a duly appointed, qualified, and acting Commissioner for the United States Court for the Third Judicial Division of the Indian Territory, located at Chickasha, on

Page 420

the 1st day of March, 1895, it is hereby ordered that, in accordance with the Act of Congress approved March 1, 1895, the said William R. Reagan be, and he is hereby, continued in office, and the bond hereinbefore recited be, and the same is, in all things approved and confirmed.

C. B. Kilgore, Judge

II. He continuously performed the duties and received the salary of said office until the 31st day of January in the year 1896, when the following letter was entered upon the records of the United States Court in the Indian Territory, in the Southern District, by the Hon. Constantine B. Kilgore, judge of said court:

In Chambers

Ardmore, Indian Territory, January 31st, 1896

Hon. William R. Reagan, United States Commissioner for the Fourth Commissioner's District in and for the Southern District of the Indian Territory.

Sir: I feel it my duty to declare the office of commissioner in that district vacant, and to notify you that you are no longer United States commissioner for that district, and your successor will be named at once.

There are many reasons which I could assign for my action in this behalf, but I will only suggest one now -- that is, your age and the infirmities incident thereto render you, in my judgment, in many respects unfit for the office.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. B. Kilgore

Judge U.S. Dist. Court, S. Dist.

The letter was not sent to the claimant or served upon him. No other statement of cause was made. The claimant was given no notice of any charge against him. No hearing was allowed the claimant and no opportunity to submit proof in his defense.

III. The claimant protested that said letter was insufficient to effect his removal, and duly served such protest upon the Hon. Constantine B. Kilgore, judge of said court.

IV. On February 10, 1896, one John R. Williams, who had

Page 421

been designated by said judge as United States commissioner in the claimant's place, came to claimant's office with two armed deputy marshals, and, presenting his order of appointment, demanded possession of the dockets, books, and papers belonging to claimant's office as United States commissioner.

V. The order of appointment of...

To continue reading