255 U.S. 373 (2015), Winton v. Amos

Citation:255 U.S. 373, 41 S.Ct. 342, 65 L.Ed. 684
Party Name:Winton v. Amos
Case Date:March 07, 1921
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 373

255 U.S. 373 (2015)

41 S.Ct. 342, 65 L.Ed. 684




United States Supreme Court

March 7, 1921



1. The acts authorizing these suits against Mississippi Choctaws (April 26, 1906, c. 1876, § 9, 34 Stat. 140; May 29, 1908, c. 21, 27, 35 Stat. 457) contemplate not an action in personam to establish

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personal liability against individual Indians, or a group of them, but an equitable class suit against those who, by successfully asserting citizenship in the Choctaw Nation, acquired allotments out of the tribal land and participation in funds held in trust by the United States, to impose an equitable charge upon their lands and interests so acquired for a reasonable and proportionate contribution towards the value of the services rendered and expenses incurred by the claimants in securing such lands and interests for the class. Pp. 375, 391, 397.

2. The acts, in treating the Indians affected as a class, and in providing for their representation by the Governor of the Choctaw Nation for the purpose of receiving notice of the suit and by the Attorney General of the United States for the purpose of appearing and defending it, and in omitting to make the United States a party, are within the constitutional authority of Congress over tribal Indians and their property, and do not deprive the Indians of their property in violation of the Fifth Amendment, although they are citizens. P. 392.

3. For proper professional services rendered and expenses incurred in successfully promoting legislation to rescue substantial property interests of a class of beneficiaries under a trust of a public nature, it is equitable to impose a charge for reimbursement and compensation upon the interests so secured, the same as if a like result had been reached through litigation in the courts. P. 392.

4. Where such services, enuring to the benefit of a class, are performed under express contracts with some of its members, the party performing them may exact compensation from such individuals directly, under the express contracts if they are valid or under implied contracts if they are not (in which case, they would have contribution from their co-beneficiaries), or, in avoidance of circuity of action, he may waive his rights under the contracts and proceed against all the beneficiaries directly. P. 393.

5. To sustain such an equitable charge, the services rendered must have been substantially instrumental in producing a result beneficial to the class upon whose interests it is to be imposed. P. 394.

6. Where the acts performed by certain claimants in behalf of a class of Mississippi Choctaws were in part such as to assist in procuring the legislative and administrative measures which secured their property interests, and in part apparently of the opposite tendency, so that the effect of the service as a whole was in doubt, held that the Court of Claims should not have limited its findings to what the claimants did, but should have found specifically on whether

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the service was of benefit, and, if so, what compensation was equitably and justly due on the principle of quantum meruit. P. 395.

7. When requests under Rules 90-95 for additional findings are not filed within the prescribed 60 days after judgment, the Court of Claims has discretion to reject them upon that ground, but when it rejects them for other reasons evincing a misconception of the case and of the significance of the requested findings, it will not be assumed that they would have been rejected upon the ground of delay if the misconception had not existed. P. 395.

No. 6 reversed.

Nos. 7-12 affirmed.

The cases are stated in the opinion. The decisions of the Court of Claims are reported in 51 Ct.Clms. 283; 52 id. 90.

PITNEY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE PITNEY delivered the opinion of the Court.

These are appeals from a judgment of the Court of Claims rejecting claims for alleged services rendered and expenses incurred in the matter of the claims of the Mississippi Choctaws to citizenship in the Choctaw Nation. The decision of the Court of Claims is reported in 51 Ct.Cls. 284. I n the Winton case (No. 6), a request for additional findings, equivalent to an application for rehearing, was denied, 52 Ct.Cls. 90. The appeals were taken under § 182, Jud.Code.

The jurisdiction of the court below arose under an Act of April 26, 1906, c. 1876, § 9, 34 Stat. 137, 140, and an

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amendatory provision in the Act of May 29, 1908, c. 216, § 27, 35 Stat. 444, 457. The former provided:

That the Court of Claims is hereby authorized and directed to hear, consider, and adjudicate the claims against the Mississippi Choctaws of the estate of Charles F. Winton, deceased, his associates and assigns, for services rendered and expenses incurred in the matter of the claims of the Mississippi Choctaws to citizenship in the Choctaw Nation, and to render judgment thereon on the principle of quantum meruit in such amount or amounts as may appear equitable or justly due therefor, which judgment, if any, shall be paid from any funds now or hereafter due such Choctaws by the United States. Notice of such suit shall be served on the Governor of the Choctaw Nation, and the Attorney General shall appear and defend the said suit on behalf of said Choctaws.

The original petition was filed October 11, 1906, by Wirt K. Winton, one of the heirs at law of Charles F. Winton, in behalf of himself and the other heirs and also in behalf of the associates and assigns of Charles F. Winton. Thereafter it was provided by the amendatory act that the court be authorized and directed to hear, consider, and adjudicate claims of like character on the part of William N. Vernon, J. S. Bounds, and Chester Howe, their associates or assigns, and render judgment on the same principle of quantum meruit, the judgment, if any, to be paid from "any funds now or hereafter due such Choctaws as individuals by the United States;" Vernon, Bounds, and Howe were authorized to intervene in the pending suit of the estate of Winton, and it was

provided further that the lands allotted to the Mississippi Choctaws are hereby declared subject to a lien to the extent of the claims of the said Winton and of the other plaintiffs authorized by Congress to sue the said defendants, subject to the final judgment of the Court of Claims in the said case. Notice of such suit or intervention shall

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be served on the Governor of the Choctaw Nation, and the Attorney General shall appear and defend the said suit on behalf of the said Choctaws.

Thereafter, a second amended petition was filed by Wirt K. Winton, as administrator of the estate of Charles F. Winton, deceased, in behalf of the estate of Winton and also of Winton's associates and assigns. In this petition, James K. Jones, administrator of James K. Jones, deceased, and Robert L. Owen in his own behalf, joined. Intervening petitions were filed by William N. Vernon; Chester Howe, who died pending suit and in whose place his administratrix, Katie A. Howe, was substituted, and several others.

As shown by the findings, the claim of Winton and associates arose as follows: by Article 3 of the treaty of September 27, 1830 (7 Stat. 333), known as the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, the Choctaw Nation of Indians ceded to the United States the entire country possessed by them east of the Mississippi river, and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi during the three years next succeeding. But, in view of the fact that some of the Choctaws preferred not to move, it was provided in Article 14 that each head of a family who desired to remain and become a citizen of the states should be permitted to do so, and should thereupon be entitled to a reservation of one section of land, with an additional half section for each unmarried child living with him over ten years of age, and a quarter section for each child under ten. If they resided upon said lands, intending to become citizens of the states, for five years after the ratification of the treaty, a grant in fee simple should issue, and it was further provided:

Persons who claim under this article shall not lose the privilege of a Choctaw citizen, but, if they ever remove, are not to be entitled to any portion of the Choctaw annuity.

By another article (19), reservations were provided for certain prominent Choctaws by name

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and for limited numbers of heads of families and captains.

The mixed-blood Choctaws who elected to remain in Mississippi were provided for under Article 19, while the full bloods who remained and elected to become citizens of the state were provided for under Article 14; [41 S.Ct. 345] hence, full-blood Mississippi Choctaws have always been called "Fourteenth Article claimants." Choctaws who remained in Mississippi under that article adopted the dress, habits, customs, and manner of living of the white citizens of the state. They had no tribal or band organization or laws of their own, but were subject to the laws of the state. They did not live upon any reservation, nor did the government exercise supervision or control over them. No funds were appropriated for their support, though much land was given to them. Neither the Indian Office nor the Department of the Interior assumed or exercised jurisdiction over them, and they never recognized them either individually or as bands, but regarded them as citizens of the State of Mississippi, and the Department held it had no authority to approve contracts made with them.

Pending the negotiation of the treaty, the Legislature of the State of Mississippi passed an act, January 19, 1830, abolishing the tribal customs of Indians not recognized by the common law or the law of the state...

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