266 U.S. 457 (1925), 343, Behn, Meyer & Company, Ltd. v. Miller

Docket NºNo. 343
Citation266 U.S. 457, 45 S.Ct. 165, 69 L.Ed. 374
Party NameBehn, Meyer & Company, Ltd. v. Miller
Case DateJanuary 05, 1925
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 457

266 U.S. 457 (1925)

45 S.Ct. 165, 69 L.Ed. 374

Behn, Meyer & Company, Ltd.

v.

Miller

No. 343

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 5, 1925

Argued November 24, 1924

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS

OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Syllabus

1. A corporation organized in a British colony, which had never been a resident of, nor done business within, any nation at war with the United States since April 6, 1917, or ally of such nation,

Page 458

was neither an enemy nor ally of an enemy within the meaning of the Trading with the Enemy Act of October 6, 1917, c. 106, 40 Stat. 411, and was entitled under § 9 of the act to recover by suit the proceeds of its property unlawfully seized by the Alien Property Custodian. P. 471.

2. Amendments added to the Trading with the Enemy Act since the Armistice by Acts of 1920 and 1923 -- § 9(b) pars. 6 and 11; § 9(c), -- authorized restoration or suit for recovery of property seized by the Alien Property Custodian where the President shall determine that the owner was, at time of seizure, a corporation incorporated within any country other than the United States and was and remains entirely owned by subjects or citizens of nations, states, etc., other than Germany, Austria, Hungary, or Austria-Hungary, or a corporation organized or incorporated within any country other than these last enumerated, the control of which, or more than 50% of the interest or voting power in which, was, at the time of such seizure, and remains, vested in citizens or subjects of other nations, states, etc. -- construed as not intended to withdraw the right of a corporation, never "enemy or ally of enemy," to recover property unlawfully seized during the war when a majority of its shareholders were Germans. Id.

3. Section 7(c) of the Trading with the Enemy Act, in authorizing seizure of property held "on account of, or on behalf of, or for the benefit of an enemy or ally of enemy," was not intended to empower the President to seize the property of a non-enemy corporation merely because of enemy stockholding interests therein. P. 472.

54 App.D.C. 225, 296 F. 1002, reversed.

Appeal from a decree of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia affirming a decree of the Supreme Court of the District which dismissed on motion the appellant's bill against the Alien Property Custodian and the Treasurer of the United States, to recover the proceeds held by the latter, of property unlawfully seized by the former.

Page 462

MCREYNOLDS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE McREYNOLDS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Since December, 1905, the appellant, Behn, Meyer & Co., Limited, has been a corporation organized under the laws of the Straits Settlements, a crown colony of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. It has never been a resident of, nor has it done business within, the territory of any nation at war with the United States since April 6, 1917, or an ally of such nation. Prior to February, 1918, under the supervision of Menzi, a stockholder and citizen of Switzerland, it carried on business in the Philippine Islands. During that month, and while subjects of Germany held most of its stock, the Alien Property Custodian, claiming authority under the Trading with the Enemy Act, seized and converted into cash the corporation's assets found in those islands. The proceeds are held by him or by the Treasurer of the United States.

Alleging that its property had been improperly seized and the proceeds were being unjustly withheld, the company brought suit to recover them in the Supreme Court, District of Columbia, July 28, 1922. Upon motion, the trial court dismissed the petition, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decree.

Following much consideration, Congress passed the original Trading with the Enemy Act, approved October 6, 1917 (40 Stat. 411, c. 106). It is long (19 sections), rather complicated, and evinces the purpose to clothe the President with definitely restricted powers in respect of seizing property of those designated as enemies. It has been amended several times, but has always contained the original provisions (§ 9) allowing recovery

Page 463

of seized property which did not in fact belong to an enemy.

By § 9, as twice amended, anyone "not an enemy or ally of enemy" claiming any interest, right or title in any money or other property so sequestered and held may give notice of his claim and institute a suit in equity. . . . [The act] distinctly reserves to any claimant who is neither an enemy nor an ally of an enemy a right to assert and establish his claim by a [45 S.Ct. 166] suit in equity unembarrassed by the precedent executive determination. Not only so, but, pending the suit, which the claimant may bring as promptly after the seizure as he chooses, the property is to be retained by the Custodian to abide the result, and, if the claimant prevails, is to be forthwith returned to him. Thus, there is provision for the return of property mistakenly sequestered, and we have no hesitation in pronouncing it adequate, for it enables the claimant, as of right, to obtain a full hearing on his claim in a court having power to enforce it if found meritorious.

Stoeher v. Wallace, 255 U.S. 239, 243, 246; Central Union Trust Co. v. Garvan, 254 U.S. 554; Commercial Trust Co. v. Miller, 262 U.S. 51.

Section 2, which has remained unchanged, declares that "person" shall include corporation or body politic and the word "enemy" shall be deemed to mean:

(a) Any individual, partnership, or other body of individuals of any nationality resident within the territory (including that occupied by the military and naval forces) of any nation with which the United States is at war, or resident outside the United States and doing business within such territory, and any corporation incorporated within such territory of any nation with which the United States is at war or incorporated within any country other than the United States and doing business within such territory.

(b) The government of any nation with which the United States is at war, or any political or municipal subdivision

Page 464

thereof, or any officer, official, agent, or agency thereof.

(c) Such other individuals, or body or class of individuals, as may be natives, citizens, or subjects of any nation with which the United States is at war, other than citizens of the United States, wherever resident or wherever doing business, as the President, if he shall find the safety of the United States or the successful prosecution of the war shall so require, may, by proclamation, include within the term "enemy."

Also, the words "ally of enemy" shall be deemed to mean:

(a) Any individual, partnership, or other body of individuals, of any nationality, resident within the territory (including that occupied by the military and naval forces) of any nation which is an ally of a nation with which the United States is a war, or resident outside the United States and doing business within such territory, and any corporation incorporated within such territory of such ally nation, or incorporated within any country other than the United States and doing business within such territory.

(b) The government of any nation which is an ally of a nation with which the United States is at war, or any political or municipal subdivision of such ally nation, or any officer, official, agent, or agency thereof.

(c) Such other individuals, or body or class of individuals, as may be natives, citizens, or subjects of any nation which is an ally of a nation with which the United States is at war, other than citizens of the United States, wherever resident or wherever doing business, as the President, if he shall find the safety of the United States or the successful prosecution of the war shall so require, may, by proclamation, include within the term "ally of enemy."

After prohibiting trade with, for, or on account of any enemy or ally of enemy, and making sundry provisions

Page 465

for licenses, appointment of an Alien Property Custodian, reports to him, etc., the original act provided:

Sec. 7(c). If the President shall so require, any money or other property owing or belonging to or held for, by, on account of, or on behalf of, or for the benefit of an enemy or ally of enemy not holding a license granted by the President hereunder which the President, after investigation, shall determine is so owing or so belongs or is so held, shall be conveyed, transferred, assigned, delivered, or paid over to the Alien Property Custodian.1

Sec. 9. That any person, not an enemy, or ally of enemy claiming any interest, right, or title in any money or other property which may have been conveyed, transferred, assigned, delivered, or paid to the Alien Property Custodian hereunder, and held by him or by the Treasurer of the United States . . . may file with the said Custodian a notice of his claim under oath and in such form and containing such particulars as the said Custodian shall require,...

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20 practice notes
  • 187 F.2d 759 (7th Cir. 1951), 10192, Kaku Nagano v. McGrath
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • February 26, 1951
    ...of enemy or of ally of enemy contained in Sec. 2. They remain the same as they were at the time Behn, Meyer & Co. v. Miller (266 U.S. 457, 45 S.Ct. 165, 69 L.Ed. 374) Page 765 was decided. * * * Through neither Sec. 2 nor Sec 9(a) was amended with Sec. 5(b) in 1941, one of them must be ......
  • 255 F.Supp. 353 (S.D.N.Y. 1965), 60 Civ. 2696, von Clemm v. Smith
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • November 23, 1965
    ...was entitled to maintain the action. The Supreme Court had so held in a similar case in 1925. Behn, Meyer & Co., Limited, v. Miller, 266 U.S. 457, 45 S.Ct. 165, 69 L.Ed. 374 (1925). But under the Act as it read in 1925, the Custodian could not have vested the property in the first place......
  • 746 F.2d 865 (D.C. Cir. 1984), 83-1860, American Airways Charters, Inc. v. Regan
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • October 23, 1984
    ...with definitely restricted powers in respect of seizing property of those designated as enemies." Behn, Meyer & Co. v. Miller, 266 U.S. 457, 462, 45 S.Ct. 165, 165, 69 L.Ed. 374 (1925). The drafters of the original Act described it as to mitigate the rules of law which prohibit all......
  • 179 Misc. 578, Drewry v. Onassis
    • United States
    • November 16, 1942
    ...in England does not affect the plaintiff's status to the extent of cancelling the alien-enemy status. In Behn, Meyer & Co. v. Miller (266 U.S. 457), it was pertinently said (at p. 472): 'Before its passage the original Trading with the Enemy Act was considered in the light of difficulti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • 187 F.2d 759 (7th Cir. 1951), 10192, Kaku Nagano v. McGrath
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • February 26, 1951
    ...of enemy or of ally of enemy contained in Sec. 2. They remain the same as they were at the time Behn, Meyer & Co. v. Miller (266 U.S. 457, 45 S.Ct. 165, 69 L.Ed. 374) Page 765 was decided. * * * Through neither Sec. 2 nor Sec 9(a) was amended with Sec. 5(b) in 1941, one of them must be ......
  • 255 F.Supp. 353 (S.D.N.Y. 1965), 60 Civ. 2696, von Clemm v. Smith
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit Southern District of New York
    • November 23, 1965
    ...was entitled to maintain the action. The Supreme Court had so held in a similar case in 1925. Behn, Meyer & Co., Limited, v. Miller, 266 U.S. 457, 45 S.Ct. 165, 69 L.Ed. 374 (1925). But under the Act as it read in 1925, the Custodian could not have vested the property in the first place......
  • 746 F.2d 865 (D.C. Cir. 1984), 83-1860, American Airways Charters, Inc. v. Regan
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
    • October 23, 1984
    ...with definitely restricted powers in respect of seizing property of those designated as enemies." Behn, Meyer & Co. v. Miller, 266 U.S. 457, 462, 45 S.Ct. 165, 165, 69 L.Ed. 374 (1925). The drafters of the original Act described it as to mitigate the rules of law which prohibit all......
  • 179 Misc. 578, Drewry v. Onassis
    • United States
    • November 16, 1942
    ...in England does not affect the plaintiff's status to the extent of cancelling the alien-enemy status. In Behn, Meyer & Co. v. Miller (266 U.S. 457), it was pertinently said (at p. 472): 'Before its passage the original Trading with the Enemy Act was considered in the light of difficulti......
  • Request a trial to view additional results