218 U.S. 322 (1910), 13, Hooe v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 13
Citation:218 U.S. 322, 31 S.Ct. 85, 54 L.Ed. 1055
Party Name:Hooe v. United States
Case Date:November 28, 1910
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 322

218 U.S. 322 (1910)

31 S.Ct. 85, 54 L.Ed. 1055



United States

No. 13

United States Supreme Court

November 28, 1910

Argued October 25, 26, 1910



Congress, proceeding under the Constitution, declares what amount shall be drawn from the Treasury in pursuance of an appropriation.

Heads of departments cannot, by express or implied contract, render the government liable for an amount in excess of that expressly appropriated by Congress for the subject matter of the contract.

A claim against the United States for a specific amount of money which is not expressly or by necessary implication authorized by a valid enactment of Congress cannot be said to be founded on the Constitution.

When an officer of the United States takes or uses private property without authority of law, he creates no condition under which the government is liable by reason of its constitutional duty to make compensation. If private property has been taken or used by an officer of the United States without authority of law, the remedy is not with the courts, but with Congress alone.

A claim for such compensation does not rest on the Constitution, and as an unauthorized act of the officer does not create a claim against the United States, the Court of Claims has no jurisdiction thereof under the Tucker Act of March 3, 1887, c. 359, 24 Stat. 505.

One renting a building to a department of the government and receiving the entire appropriation for rent for such department has no claim against the government for any amount in excess of the appropriation, even though he demands more and though he expressly excepts a part of the building from the lease and the department actually occupies the part reserved, nor has the Court of Claims jurisdiction of such a claim as one arising under the provision of the Constitution that private property shall not be taken without compensation.

43 Ct.Cl. 245 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the validity of a claim for rent of premises occupied by a department of the United States, the power of an officer of the United Slates to make contracts in excess of amount appropriated by Congress, and the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims,are stated in the opinion.

Page 326

HARLAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellants, plaintiffs below, seek to recover from the United States the sum of $9,000, the amount which

Page 327

they allege is due them on account of the occupation and use, by the Civil Service Commission, of certain premises in the City of Washington, District of Columbia.

The finding of fact by the Court of Claims, using largely the words of the finding, may be summarized as follows:

On the tenth day of July, 1900, the Secretary of the Interior, proceeding under the appropriation act for the legislative, executive, and judicial expenses of the government for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1901 (Act of April 17, 1900, 31 Stat. 125, c. 192), made a written agreement with plaintiffs for the leasing and renting to the government for the use of the Civil Service Commission of a certain building on E. and Eighth Streets, in Washington, "except the basement thereof," for the period commencing August 1st, 1900, and ending June 30th, 1901 at the rate of $333,33 1/3 per month, or $4,000 for the year -- the right being reserved to the government to terminate the lease after thirty days' written notice at the end of any calendar month.

The Commission, on August 1st, 1900, took possession and remained in exclusive possession of the building, including its basement, until the bringing of this suit. The amount appropriated by Congress for the rent of offices for the Commission for the year ending June 30th, 1901, was $4,000, one-twelfth of which was expended for such rent for July, 1900.

On the third of March, 1901, Congress appropriated for the rent of quarters for the Commission the sum of $4,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1902. 31 Stat. 1000, 100-1, c. 830. The Secretary of the Interior, shortly after the beginning of that year, proposed to the plaintiffs a renewal of the lease for that year. But the plaintiffs expressed their unwillingness "to rent the said building for another year at the rate of $4,000 per annum," or to rent the entire building, including the basement, then occupied by the Commission,

Page 328

at a rental less than $6,000 per annum. Without further action on either side, "the defendants continued in possession of said building and basement during said year, paying," however, to the plaintiffs, $4,000, the rent specified in the lease for the first year, to-wit, $4,000.

In his estimates submitted for appropriations by Congress for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1903, the Secretary named $6,000 "for rent of quarters for the Civil Service Commission." As the general legislative, executive, and judicial appropriation bill for that year did not, as it passed the House of Representatives, include that sum, the plaintiffs' agent, in writing, informed the chief clerk of the Interior Department that, unless the Senate fixed the rent at $6,000, the plaintiffs would ask possession of the property at the earliest convenient time. Of this attitude of the plaintiffs the Senate was informed by plaintiffs' agent. He appeared before the House Committee on Appropriations, and by the Secretary of the Interior transmitted the letter of plaintiffs to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Congress, however, refused to increase the appropriation to $6,000, and for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1903, appropriated "for rent of buildings for the Department of the Interior, namely, for . . . Civil Service Commission, four thousand dollars." 32 Stat. 162, c. 594. No further action was taken by either party in relation to an increase of rent or the demanding of possession, and the United States continued in possession of the property, including the basement, for that fiscal year, paying rent at the rate of $4,000 per year. Although the Secretary of the Interior estimated an increase of $2,000 for quarters of the Civil Service Commission for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1904, Congress appropriated only $4,500, 32 Stat. 854, c. 755. In consequence of this increase, the Secretary sought to rent from the plaintiffs all the "building

Page 329

and premises for the use of the Civil Service Commission for the sum of $4,500, appropriated," but plaintiffs refused to do that. The Secretary finally, August 18th, 1903, made a lease from claimants for all of said building, "except the basement," for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1904 at the rate of $4,500 per year.

For the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1905, Congress, March 18th, 1904, appropriated $4,500 for the rent of quarters for the Commission. 3 3 Stat. 85, c. 716. In accordance with that appropriation, the Secretary proposed to the plaintiffs, in writing, to renew the lease of August 18th, 1903, for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 1905 at the rate of $4,500 per annum. The plaintiffs took no action on [31 S.Ct. 87] this proposal except to write to the Secretary requesting that the basement of the building, which had not been included in either of the leases to the government, be included "in the lease at the rate of 30 cents per square foot for its floor space." Neither party took any further steps in reference to the renewal of the lease,...

To continue reading