Charles Benedict v. United States

Decision Date26 February 1900
Docket NumberNo. 435,435
Citation44 L.Ed. 503,20 S.Ct. 458,176 U.S. 357
PartiesCHARLES L. BENEDICT, Appt. , v. UNITED STATES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

This was a petition by the late district judge for the eastern district of New York, for his retiring salary, under Rev. Stat. § 714, at the rate of $6,800 per annum, which the petition avers was the salary which was by law payable to him during the year previous to his resignation. The petitioner acknowledges the payment of $5,000 and claims a residue of $1,800, to which he avers himself to be justly entitled.

Upon hearing the case and upon the consent of parties, the court of claims found the following facts:

'First. The petitioner, Charles L. Benedict, is a citizen of the United States, of lawful age, and resides at Dongan Hills, Staten Island, in the city of New York, and state of New York.

'Second. In the month of April, 1865, the petitioner was duly appointed by the President of the United States judge of the district court of the United States for the eastern district of New York.

'Third. The petitioner duly entered on the duties of his office, and duly performed the same until the year 1897, during which, and on or about the 20th of July, 1897, he resigned his office, having then held his commission as judge of said court for more than ten years, and having attained the age of seventy and upward.

'Fourth. Since the passage of the act of February 7, 1873, the petitioner has held, under the provisions of that act and the Revised Statutes, to wit, §§ 613 and 658 of the Revised Statutes, the six terms of the circuit court of the United States for the southern district of New York, referred to in said statutes, in every year, and has received for holding each of said terms the sum of $300; the same being paid to him by the United States marshal for the southern district of New York, pursuant to §§ 613 and 597, Revised Statutes.

'Fifth. That the same was paid upon a voucher in substance as follows:

(Omitted.)

'The total amount thus paid annually to the plaintiff was $1,800.

'Sixty. That such payments to the petitioner by the marshal were from time to time allowed in the marshal's accounts and paid to him out of the appropriations for defraying the expenses of the courts of the United States.

'Seventh. During the year previous to the petitioner's resignation he received the said $1,800 for that year, in accordance with the provisions of §§ 613, 597, and 658, Revised Statutes, as above set forth, and also the salary of $5,000 payable to him as provided by the act of Congress of February 24, 1891 appropriation to pay the salaries of district judges of the United States.

'Eighth. During the year since his resignation petitioner has only received as salary the sum of $5,000, which sum has been received by him without prejudice to the claim which he makes in this proceeding.

'Ninth. The petitioner presented to the auditor of the state and other departments a bill for the amount of his salary claimed by him herein to be remaining due and unpaid, and made claim on the auditor for the payment of said bill, but the auditor refused to audit or approve the said bill, and no part of the said $1,800 has been paid to him.'

The petition was dismissed (34 Ct. Cl. 388), and petitioner appealed to this court.

Mr. Robert D. Benedict for appellant.

Assistant Attorney General Pradt and Solicitor General Richards for appellee.

Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court:

By Rev. Stat. § 714, 'when any judge of any court of the United States resigns his office, after having held his commission as such at least ten years, and having attained the age of seventy years, he shall, during the residue of his natural life, receive the same salary which was by law payable to him at the time of his resignation.'

In April, 1865, petitioner was appointed by the President, judge of the district court of the United States for the eastern district of New York, and served as such until July 20, 1897, when he resigned his office, having then held his commission for over thirty years, and attained the age of seventy years and upwards. The salary of all district judges was fixed by the act of February 24, 1891 (26 Stat. at L. 783, chap. 287), at the rate of $5,000 per annum. There is no question made but that petitioner was entitled to this amount, and that it has been paid him.

The controversy arises over the proper construction of the act of February 7, 1873, reproduced in Rev. Stat. §§ 658 and 613. By § 658 it is enacted that 'the regular terms of the circuit court shall be held in each year, at the times and places following: . . . in the southern district of New York, at the city of New York, . . . exclusively for the trial and disposal of criminal cases, and matters arising and pending in said court, on the second Wednesday in January, March, and May, on the third Wednesday in June, and on the second Wednesday in October and December;' and by § 613 it is provided that 'the terms of the circuit court for the southern district of New York, appointed exclusively for the trial and...

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