Morrison v. Work, No. 112

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRANDEIS
Citation69 L.Ed. 394,45 S.Ct. 149,266 U.S. 481
PartiesMORRISON v. WORK, Secretary of Interior, et al
Docket NumberNo. 112
Decision Date05 January 1925

266 U.S. 481
45 S.Ct. 149
69 L.Ed. 394
MORRISON

v.

WORK, Secretary of Interior, et al.

No. 112.
Argued Oct. 24, 1924.
Decided Jan. 5, 1925.

Page 482

Mr. Webster Ballinger, of Washington, D. C., for appellant.

The Attorney General and Mr. Harry L. Underwood, of Washington, D. C., for appellees.

Mr. Justice BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

By the Act of January 14, 1889, c. 24, 25 Stat. 642, and agreements made pursuant thereto approved by the President March 4, 1890, the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota ceded to the United States their title to all lands constituting their reservations in that state, except a

Page 483

small portion of the White Earth and Red Lake reservations.1 The ceded lands were to be surveyed and classified into pine and agricultural lands, and were to be sold at a price not less than that fixed by the act; the proceeds were to be deposited in the treasury of the United States to the credit of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, and interest thereon was to be paid by the government at the rate of 5 per cent. Part of this interest was to be distributed annually in cash to heads of families and guardians of minor orphans, part thereof to other classes of Indians, and the remainder was to be applied, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, for the establishment and maintenance of free schools for the Indians. At the end of 50 years the so-called permanent fund was to be divided in equal shares and paid to the Indians then entitled thereto. The United States has exercised and is now exercising, in respect to the property dealt with in said act and agreement, the powers of a guardian for these Indians and of a trustee in possession.

This suit was brought in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia by Morrison, who alleges that he is a member of the class of persons described as 'all the Chippewa Indians in the state of Minnesota,' and sues on behalf of himself and others similarly situated. The defendants are the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the Secretary of the Treasury. Relief is sought on eight distinct grounds. Four of the

Page 484

rest upon charges that by six later acts2 Congress undertook to modify or to ignore rights of the Chippewas which had become fixed by the agreements approved March 4, 1890; that by carrying out the provisions of these later acts the defendants, in their official capacities, have subjected these Chippewas to great loss, and threaten further injury; and that each of the six acts is void, because it deprives them of property in violation of the Constitution. Three grounds of complaint rest upon charges that the defendants, acting officially, have, through mistaken and hence unauthorized exercise of powers granted by the act of 1889, inflicted, and threaten, further injury.3 The eighth ground of complaint is that loss has been inflicted and is threatened through failure to perform duties imposed by that act. The specific prayers are for an injunction to restrain each of the threatened wrongs. There is also a prayer for general relief. The defendants moved to dismiss the bill. The motions were sustained, and leave was granted to amend. An amended bill was filed, defendants again moved to dismiss, a final decree of dismissal was entered by the trial court, and it was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the District. 290 F. 306. The case is here on appeal under section 250 of the Judicial Code.

The objections presented by the motions to dismiss include lack of jurisdiction of the court over the subject-matter, lack of necessary parties plaintiff and defendant,

Page 485

and lack of merits. Every objection made involves the determination of the nature of the title of the Indians to the property in suit and the nature of the interest of Morrison therein. The differences in character of the three classes of complaint included in the bill require that each class be considered separately. But it is no necessary either to state in detail the facts concerning each of the eight grounds of complaint, or to pass upon their merits.

First. The four grounds of complaint which rest upon the charge that the defendants are depriving these Chippewas of their property by carrying out the provisions of the six later acts of Congress, have this in common. Each complaint relates to some change made either in the method of managing and disposing of the ceded lands or in the disposition of the proceeds thereof. As to each, it is claimed that the defendants' acts are unlawful because Congress was powerless to make the change without the consent of the Chippewas. It is admitted that, as regards tribal property subject to the control of the United States as guardian of Indians, Congress may make such changes in the management and disposition as it deems necessary to promote their welfare. The United States is now exercising, under the claim that the property is tribal, the powers of a guardian and of a trustee in possession. Morrison's contention is that, by virtue of the act of 1889 and the agreements made thereunder, the ceded lands ceased to be tribal property and the rights of the Indians in the lands and in the fund to be formed became fixed as individual property. The Court of Appeals held this contention to be unfounded. We have no occasion to determine whether it erred in so ruling. The claim of the United States is at least a substantial one. To interfere with its management and disposition of the lands or the funds by enjoinion its officials, would interfere with the performance of governmental functions

Page 486

and vitally affect interests of the United States. It is therefore an indispensable party to this suit.4 It was not joined as defendant. Nor could it have been, as Congress has not consented that it be sued.5 The bill so far as it complains of acts done pursuant to the later legislation, was properly dismissed for this reason, among others.

Second. The three grounds of complaint which rest upon charges that the defendants, acting under color of authority granted by the act of 1889, have inflicted and threaten injury by the exercise of powers not conferred, have this in common. Each complaint involves the charge that the officials have erred either in construing or in applying that act and the agreements approved March 4, 1890. The Court of Appeals held all of these charges to be unfounded. We need not consider the correctness of the rulings. Nor need we consider whether the errors complained of were decisions by a head of an executive department of the Government of the character not subject to judicial review.6 The bill was properly dismissed, so far as concerns these three charges, because the plaintiff is not in a position to litigate in this proceeding the legality of the acts complained of.

The case at bar is unlike those in which relief by injunction has been granted against the head of an executive department, or other officer, of the government to enjoin an official act on the ground that it was not within the authority conferred, or that it was an improper exercise of such authority, or that Congress lacked the power to confer the authority exercised. In those cases the act

Page 487

complained of either involved an invasion or denial of a definite right of the plaintiff,7 or it operated to cast a cloud upon his property.8 In some of those cases the defendant would have been liable individually in trespass unless he could justify under authority conferred.9 Morrison and the other Chippewas have no right of that character. The lands ceded are the property of the United States. It has, confessedly, power to dispose of them. It assumed the obligation of doing this properly, of accounting for the principal of the trust fund to be created thereby, and of disbursing properly the interest accruing. Each of these three grounds of complaint involves, in essence, either the charge of faliure to pay into the treasury to the credit of the Chippewas money which should be credited to them or the making of a payment from the accruing interest for the purpose not authorized. If through officials of the United States these lands, or the proceeds

Page 488

thereof, or the accruing interest, are improperly disposed of, it is the United States, not the officials, which is under obligation to account to the Indians therefor. In other words, the right of...

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92 practice notes
  • Virginian Ry Co v. System Federation No 40, No. 324
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 29, 1937
    ...Willard v. Tayloe, 8 Wall. 557, 565, 19 L.Ed. 501; Joy v. St. Louis, supra, 138 U.S. 1, 47, 11 S.Ct. 243, 34 L.Ed. 843; Morrison v. Work, 266 U.S. 481, 490, 45 S.Ct. 149, 153, 69 L.Ed. 394; Curran v. Holyoke Water Power Co., 116 Mass. 90, 92. Whether the decree will prove so useless as to l......
  • Banco de Espana v. Federal Reserve Bank, No. 370-372.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • July 8, 1940
    ...v. Hitchcock, 202 U.S. 473, 26 S.Ct. 667, 50 L.Ed. 1113; Louisiana v. Garfield, 211 U.S. 70, 29 S.Ct. 31, 53 L.Ed. 92; Morrison v. Work, 266 U.S. 481, 45 S.Ct. 149, 69 L.Ed. 394; Cummings v. Deutsche Bank, 300 U.S. 115, 57 S.Ct. 359, 81 L.Ed. 545; Minnesota v. United States, 305 U.S. 382, 3......
  • Arenas v. United States, No. 12356.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • February 19, 1951
    ...have resulted. 2 25 U.S.C.A. § 345. 3 United States v. Payne, 1924, 264 U.S. 446, 44 S.Ct. 352, 68 L.Ed. 782; Morrison v. Work, 1924, 266 U.S. 481, 490, 45 S.Ct. 149, 69 L.Ed. 394; Arenas v. United States, 1944, 322 U.S. 419, 429-430, 64 S.Ct. 1090, 88 L.Ed. 1363. 4 Gerard v. United States,......
  • Jeffries v. Olesen, No. 15779.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • May 13, 1954
    ...330 U.S. 731, 67 S.Ct. 1009, 91 L.Ed. 1209; Ickes v. Fox, 1937, 300 U.S. 82, 96-97, 57 S.Ct. 412, 81 L.Ed. 525; Morrison v. Work, 1925, 266 U.S. 481, 486-487, 45 S.Ct. 149, 69 L.Ed. 394; Philadelphia Co. v. Stimson, 1912, 223 U.S. 605, 619-620, 32 S.Ct. 340, 56 L.Ed. In the case at bar the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
92 cases
  • Virginian Ry Co v. System Federation No 40, No. 324
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 29, 1937
    ...Willard v. Tayloe, 8 Wall. 557, 565, 19 L.Ed. 501; Joy v. St. Louis, supra, 138 U.S. 1, 47, 11 S.Ct. 243, 34 L.Ed. 843; Morrison v. Work, 266 U.S. 481, 490, 45 S.Ct. 149, 153, 69 L.Ed. 394; Curran v. Holyoke Water Power Co., 116 Mass. 90, 92. Whether the decree will prove so useless as to l......
  • Banco de Espana v. Federal Reserve Bank, No. 370-372.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • July 8, 1940
    ...v. Hitchcock, 202 U.S. 473, 26 S.Ct. 667, 50 L.Ed. 1113; Louisiana v. Garfield, 211 U.S. 70, 29 S.Ct. 31, 53 L.Ed. 92; Morrison v. Work, 266 U.S. 481, 45 S.Ct. 149, 69 L.Ed. 394; Cummings v. Deutsche Bank, 300 U.S. 115, 57 S.Ct. 359, 81 L.Ed. 545; Minnesota v. United States, 305 U.S. 382, 3......
  • Arenas v. United States, No. 12356.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • February 19, 1951
    ...have resulted. 2 25 U.S.C.A. § 345. 3 United States v. Payne, 1924, 264 U.S. 446, 44 S.Ct. 352, 68 L.Ed. 782; Morrison v. Work, 1924, 266 U.S. 481, 490, 45 S.Ct. 149, 69 L.Ed. 394; Arenas v. United States, 1944, 322 U.S. 419, 429-430, 64 S.Ct. 1090, 88 L.Ed. 1363. 4 Gerard v. United States,......
  • Jeffries v. Olesen, No. 15779.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • May 13, 1954
    ...330 U.S. 731, 67 S.Ct. 1009, 91 L.Ed. 1209; Ickes v. Fox, 1937, 300 U.S. 82, 96-97, 57 S.Ct. 412, 81 L.Ed. 525; Morrison v. Work, 1925, 266 U.S. 481, 486-487, 45 S.Ct. 149, 69 L.Ed. 394; Philadelphia Co. v. Stimson, 1912, 223 U.S. 605, 619-620, 32 S.Ct. 340, 56 L.Ed. In the case at bar the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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