219 U.S. 346 (1911), 330, Muskrat v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 330, 331
Citation:219 U.S. 346, 31 S.Ct. 250, 55 L.Ed. 246
Party Name:Muskrat v. United States
Case Date:January 23, 1911
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 346

219 U.S. 346 (1911)

31 S.Ct. 250, 55 L.Ed. 246

Muskrat

v.

United States

No. 330, 331

United States Supreme Court

January 23, 1911

Argued November 30 and December 1, 2, 1910

APPEALS FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS

Syllabus

The rule laid down in Heyburn's Case, 2 Dall. 409, that neither the legislative nor the executive branch of the Government of the United State can assign to the judicial branch any duties other than those that are properly judicial, to be performed in a judicial manner, applied, and held, that it is beyond the power of Congress to provide for a suit of this nature to be brought in the Court of

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Claims with an appeal to this Court to test the constitutionality of prior acts of Congress, such a suit not being a case or controversy within the meaning of the Constitution.

From its earliest history, this Court has consistently declined to exercise ay powers other than those which are strictly judicial in their nature.

Under the Constitution of the United States, the exercise of judicial power is limited to cases and controversies.

A case or controversy, in order that the judicial power of the United States may be exercised thereon, implies the existence of present or possible adverse parties whose contentions are submitted to the court for adjudication. Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 431.

This court has no veto power on legislation enacted by Congress, and its right to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional can only be exercised when a proper case between opposing parties is submitted for determination. Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137.

The determination by the Court of Claims, and on appeal by this Court, of the constitutional validity of an act of Congress in a suit brought by authority of a subsequent act of Congress clothing such courts with jurisdiction for the avowed purpose of settling such question with provision for payment of expenses of the suit in certain contingencies out of funds in the Treasury of the United States, is not within the appellate jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution upon this Court; such a suit is not a case or controversy to which the judicial power extends, nor would such a judgment conclude private parties in actual litigation.

That part of the Act of March 1, 1907, c. 2285, 34 Stat. 1015, 1028, which requires of this Court action in its nature not judicial within the meaning of the Constitution exceeds the limitation of legislative authority, and is unconstitutional, and the suits brought thereunder are dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

This court cannot be required to decide cases over which it has not jurisdiction because other cases are pending involving the same point of law; to do so would require it to give opinions in the nature of advice concerning legislative action.

An act of Congress, conferring jurisdiction on the Court of Claims and on this Court on appeal, testing the constitutionality of prior acts of Congress will not be sustained as to the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims alone if it cannot be also sustained as to this Court.

44 Court of Claims 137 reversed with directions to dismiss the suit.

The facts, which involve the constitutionality and construction

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of certain acts of Congress relating to the distribution and allotment of lands and funds of the Cherokee Indians, are stated in the opinion.

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the court.

These cases arise under an act of Congress undertaking to confer jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims, and upon this Court, on appeal, to determine the validity of certain acts of Congress hereinafter referred to.

Case No. 330 was brought by David Muskrat and J. Henry Dick, in their own behalf, and in behalf of others in a like situation, to determine the constitutional validity of the Act of Congress of April 26, 1906, 34 Stat. 137, as amended by the Act of June 21, 1906, c. 3504, 34 Stat. 325 et seq., and to have the same declared invalid in so far as the same undertook to increase the number of persons entitled to share in the final distribution of lands and funds of the Cherokees beyond those enrolled on September 1, 1902, in accordance with the Act of Congress passed July 1, 1902, c. 1375, 32 Stat. 716-720-721. The

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acts subsequent to that of July 1, 1902, have the effect to increase the number of persons entitled to participate in the division of the Cherokee lands and funds by permitting the enrollment of children who were minors, living on March 4, 1906, whose parents had theretofore been enrolled as members of the Cherokee tribe, or had applications pending for that purpose.

Case No. 331 was brought by Brown and Gritts on their own behalf and on behalf of other Cherokee citizens having a like interest in the property allotted under the act of July 1, 1902, c. 1368, 32 Stat. 710. Under this act, Brown and Gritts received allotments. The subsequent Act of March 11, 1904, c. 505, 33 Stat. 65,, empowered the Secretary of the Interior to grant rights of way for pipelines over lands allotted to Indians under certain regulations. Another act, that of April 26, 1906, c. 1876, 34 Stat. 137, purported to extend to a period of twenty-five years the time within which full-blooded Indians of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole tribes were forbidden to alienate, sell, dispose of, or encumber certain of their lands.

The object of the petition of Brown and Gritts was to have the subsequent legislation of 1904 and 1906 declared to be unconstitutional and void, and to have the lands allotted to them under the original Act of July 1, 1902, adjudged to be theirs free from restraints upon the rights to sell and convey the same. From this statement, it is apparent that the purpose of the proceedings instituted in the Court of Claims, and now appealed to this Court, is to restrain the enforcement of such legislation subsequent to the act of July 1, 1902, upon the ground that the same is unconstitutional and void. The Court of Claims sustained the validity of the acts and dismissed the petitions. 44 Ct.Cl. 137, 283.

These proceedings were begun under the supposed authority of an Act of Congress passed March 1, 1907 (a part

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of the Indian appropriation bill), c. 2285, 34 Stat. 1015, 1028. As that legislation is important in this connection, so much of the act as authorized the beginning of these suits is here inserted in full:

That William Brown and Levi B. Gritts, on their own behalf and on behalf of all other Cherokee citizens, having like interests in the property allotted under the act of July first, nineteen hundred and two, entitled, "An Act to Provide for the Allotment of Lands of the Cherokee Nation, for the Disposition of Town Sites Therein, and for Other Purposes," and David Muskrat and J. Henry Dick, on their own behalf, and on behalf of all Cherokee citizens enrolled as such for allotment as of September first, nineteen hundred and two, be, and they are hereby, authorized and empowered to institute their suits in the Court of Claims to determine the validity of any acts of Congress passed since the said act of July first, nineteen hundred and two, in so far as said acts, or any of them, attempt to increase or extend the restrictions upon alienation, encumbrance, or the right to lease the allotments of lands of Cherokee citizens, or to increase the number of persons entitled to share in the final distribution of lands and funds of the Cherokees beyond those enrolled for allotment as of September first, nineteen hundred and two, and provided for in the said act of July first, nineteen hundred and two.

And...

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