263 U.S. 444 (1924), 179, Tidal Oil Company v. Flanagan

Docket Nº:No. 179
Citation:263 U.S. 444, 44 S.Ct. 197, 68 L.Ed. 382
Party Name:Tidal Oil Company v. Flanagan
Case Date:January 07, 1924
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 444

263 U.S. 444 (1924)

44 S.Ct. 197, 68 L.Ed. 382

Tidal Oil Company

v.

Flanagan

No. 179

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 7, 1924

Motion to dismiss or affirm submitted November 19, 1923

ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT

OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA

Syllabus

1. An Act of February 17, 1922, amending Jud.Code, § 237, provides:

In any suit involving the validity of a contract wherein it is claimed that a change in the rule of law or construction of statutes by the highest court of a state applicable to such contract would be repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, the Supreme Court shall, upon writ of error, reexamine, reverse, or affirm the final judgment of the highest court of a state in which a decision in the suit could be had, if said claim is made in said court at any time before said final judgment is entered and if the decision is against the claim so made.

Construed as not seeking to add to the general appellate jurisdiction of this Court existing under prior legislation, but to permit review by writ of error of the class of cases therein mentioned in which the defeated party claims that his constitutional rights have been violated by the judgment of the state court itself, and to permit the objection to be raised in the state court after the handing down of its opinion, and to be raised here even though petition for rehearing be denied by the state court without opinion. Pp. 450, 454.

2. The mere fact that a state supreme court decides against a party's claim of property or contract right by reversing its earlier decision of the law applicable to such cases does not deprive him of his property without due process of law, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment, nor amount to the passing of "any law" impairing the obligation of contracts contrary to the contract clause of the Constitution. Pp. 450-451.

3. This has been so often adjudged by the Court that contentions to the contrary are without substance, and a writ of error dependent on them must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Pp. 450, 455.

4. Cases distinguished in which it has been held that federal courts, exercising jurisdiction based on diverse citizenship, to avoid injustice, but without invoking the contract clause, may decide and enforce the state law as laid down by decisions of the state court governing when a contract was made, rather than by its later decisions, and those involving alleged impairment of contract by a

Page 445

subsequent statute in which the construction of the statute by the state court is accepted, but the existence, validity and scope of the contract (and, therein, the meaning of the state statutes forming part of it) and the effect upon the contract of the subsequent statute, are determined by this Court for itself. P. 451.

Writ of error to review 87 Okla. 231, dismissed.

Error to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, which affirmed with modification a judgment in favor of the present defendant in error in his action involving the rights of the parties under conflicting deeds and agreements affecting an Indian allotment.

Page 448

TAFT, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE TAFT delivered the opinion of the Court.

J. P. Flanagan sued the Tidal Oil Company and Eleanor Arnold in the District Court of Creek County, Oklahoma, to quiet his title to two tracts of land therein of 80 acres each. His title was based on a quitclaim deed of Robert Marshall, an allottee and citizen of the Creek Nation, executed in October, 1916, after Marshall had attained his majority and had been discharged from guardianship. The defendants derived their title from the same allottee, but the deed under which they claimed was made by Marshall when he was 14 years old and married, and after he had been granted majority [44 S.Ct. 198] rights by the district court. He subsequently sought to have this deed cancelled in a suit in the same court brought by his guardian, but judgment went against him. Defendants insisted that this judgment was conclusive in the case at bar against the plaintiff as subsequent

Page 449

grantee of Marshall. After this judgment, and by way of compromise, gas and oil leases and contracts to convey were made in favor of defendants or their grantors by the guardian and approved by the county court, and these were also relied on to defeat plaintiff's title. The district court gave judgment in favor of Flanagan for the lands, and included a heavy recovery for mesne profits. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma affirmed this, but somewhat reduced the amount of recovery. It held that the deed and agreements and leases under which defendants claimed were void because Marshall was a minor when they were made; that the judgment of the district court against him and his guardian in...

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