United States v. Walker

Decision Date27 March 1969
Docket NumberNo. 22379.,22379.
Citation409 F.2d 477
PartiesUNITED STATES of America and Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior of the United States of America, Appellants, v. Jack A. WALKER, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Roger Marquis (argued) Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., Sylvan A. Jeppesen, U. S. Atty., Jay F. Bates, Asst. U. S. Atty., Boise, Idaho, for appellants.

R. B. Kading, Jr., (argued) of Richards, Haga & Eberle, James J. Sexton, III, Boise, Idaho, for appellee.

Before HAMLIN, ELY and CARTER, Circuit Judges.

HAMLIN, Circuit Judge.

Jack Walker brought suit in the District Court for the District of Idaho to set aside a decision of the Secretary of the Interior denying Walker's mining claim. Walker claimed he was entitled to purchase certain land in the Logan Creek area of Idaho pursuant to the Mining Claims Occupancy Act, 30 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.1 The district court, asserting jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., set aside the decision of the Secretary of the Interior. The district court held only that Walker was entitled to a hearing on his claim before the Secretary made his final decision; it did not reach the underlying issue of whether Walker was entitled to purchase the land. On this appeal brought by the Secretary, the sole issue before the court is whether Walker was entitled to a hearing. We hold that he was not, and we therefore reverse the decision of the district court.

30 U.S.C. § 701 provides in pertinent part that the Secretary of the Interior may convey any interest, up to and including a fee simple, to any occupant of an unpatented mining claim who relinquishes to the United States all right to such claim which he may have under the mining laws. The conveyance may be made only to a qualified applicant who pays an amount established under section 705. A qualified applicant is defined by section 702 as a residential occupant-owner of valuable improvements in an unpatented mining claim which constitute for him a principal place of residence and which he and his predecessors in interest were in possession of for not less than seven years prior to July 23, 1962. Claiming an interest under the above statutes, Walker applied for a conveyance in January, 1964. Walker's application stated that he had located the Bobbin Quartz Mining Claim on Logan Creek in 1950 and that he had located a cabin and a warehouse on the property. Beginning in 1955 he attempted to establish a mine, but the ores were not economically workable. Over the next seven years Walker made some small improvements, but because the Logan Creek property was snowed in for much of the year Walker was unable to spend much time on the property. Walker listed as assessment work done, "cat work on road" or "road grader on road" totaling not more than $127.00 in any one year. During these seven years Walker resided much of the time in Vale, Oregon, doing construction work. The rest of the year Walker divided his time between his Logan Creek property and the Yellow Pine area, although Walker conceded that he spent more time at Yellow Pine than at his mining claim. In January of 1964 Walker relinquished his Bobbin claim, a prerequisite under section 701, and applied to the Idaho office of the Bureau of Land Management for a conveyance of the property under section 701. The Regional Forester filed a report stating, "Considering the limited extent of the applicant's use, we agree with Supervisor Defler that the claim has not been a principal place of residence to qualify the applicant under the act," and the Bureau denied Walker's application on this basis. Walker appealed this decision to the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D. C., and requested a hearing, but the decision of the Idaho office was affirmed without a hearing. Walker then appealed to the Secretary of the Interior and requested a hearing, but again his application was denied without a hearing. The decision stated,

"When viewed in this light, appellant\'s own showing fails to establish that his cabin on the claim was a principal place of residence within the meaning of the statute. It indicates no more than that he occupied the cabin only when he was working on mining properties in the vicinity. * * Denial of relief to him under the act would not work the hardship on him of removal from a long-established home." (Emphasis in original.)

Walker then brought the instant suit in the district court.

We hold first that the district court was without jurisdiction to set aside the order of the Secretary of the Interior. The district court took jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. However, section 701 of that Act specifically exempts from its operation cases where "agency action is committed to agency discretion by law." Thus, when agency action is by law committed to agency discretion, the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act providing for judicial review are inapplicable. E.g., Ferry v. Udall, 336 F.2d 706 (9th Cir. 1964); United States v. Wiley's Cove Ranch, 295 F.2d 436 (8th Cir. 1961). The language of the Mining Claims Occupancy Act, under which Walker seeks a conveyance of land, gives the Secretary complete discretion to make such a conveyance. The discretionary nature of the Act is made clear in the first sentence of section 701: "The Secretary of the Interior may convey * * *." (emphasis added) The legislative history of the Mining Claims Occupancy Act also emphasizes the discretionary character of its provisions.2

In Ferry v. Udall, supra, this court, discussing the circumstances in which agency discretion barred judicial review, drew a distinction between "permissive type" statutes and "mandatory type" statutes. The court there recognized that every agency action involves the exercise of some degree of discretion. With a mandatory type statute, the Secretary must take certain action if requirements are met; the discretion of the Secretary is limited to deciding whether the requirements have been met. In such a case, the Secretary's discretion does not prevent judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act. In contrast, the Mining Claims Occupancy Act is a "permissive type" statute. Even where an applicant meets all the requirements for securing a conveyance, the Secretary may still refuse to make a conveyance. Therefore, the Mining Claims Occupancy Act commits the Secretary's action to his discretion, and the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act providing for judicial review are inapplicable.

Appellee Walker also contends that jurisdiction in the district court may be found under the federal mandamus statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1361.3 There is no merit to this contention. Mandamus is proper only to command an official to perform a ministerial act. Guffanti v. Hershey, 296 F.Supp. 553 (March 11, 1969); Smith v. United States, 333 F.2d 70 (10th Cir. 1964); Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Connor, 248 F.Supp. 656 (D.C.Mass.1966). An act is ministerial only if it is a positive command and so plainly prescribed as to be free from doubt. Prairie Band of Pottawatomie Tribe of Indians v. Udall, 355 F.2d 364 (10th Cir. 1966). The act which Walker seeks to have the Secretary of the Interior perform clearly does not constitute a ministerial act. Far from the Secretary's duty to act being plainly prescribed, the Mining Claims Occupancy Act places no duty to act on the Secretary at all. No jurisdiction under the federal mandamus statute exists on the facts of this case.

As an independent basis for decision, we also hold that, even assuming that the district court properly took jurisdiction, Walker was not entitled to a hearing. The Mining Claims Occupancy Act makes no provisions for a hearing when an applicant seeks a conveyance of land under the Act. In such a situation, no additional rights to a hearing exist under the Administrative Procedure Act. The Administrative Procedure Act does not impose any requirement of an adversary hearing before an agency; it merely...

To continue reading

Request your trial
47 cases
  • Senate Select Com. on Pres. Campaign Activities v. Nixon
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • 17 Octubre 1973
    ...2 L.Ed.2d 503 (1958); McGaw v. Farrow, 472 F.2d 952 (4th Cir. 1973); Spock v. David, 469 F.2d 1047 (3rd Cir. 1972); United States v. Walker, 409 F.2d 477 (9th Cir. 1969); Guffanti v. Hershey, 296 F.Supp. 553 (S.D.N.Y.1969); Switzerland Co. v. Udall, 225 F.Supp. 812 (W.D.N.C. 1964) aff'd, 33......
  • Pence v. Morton
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Alaska
    • 8 Abril 1975
    ...F.2d 567 (9th Cir. 1971); State of Washington v. Udall, supra, 417 F.2d 1310; Mollohan v. Gray, supra, 413 F.2d 349; United States v. Walker, 409 F.2d 477 (9th Cir. 1969); Ferry v. Udall, 336 F. 2d 706 (9th Cir. 1964); Adams v. Witmer, 271 F.2d 29 (9th Cir. 1958). It is apparent that the ac......
  • United States v. Consolidated Mines & Smelting Co., Ltd., 25164
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • 12 Diciembre 1971
    ...lands under the Isolated Tracts Act, R.S. Sec. 2455 as amended, 43 U.S.C. § 1171 where there was no hearing. See United States v. Walker, 409 F.2d 477, 481-482 (9 Cir. 1969). The trial court had concluded in its first "The Bureau found no evidence, and Consolidated produced none, of prior l......
  • Coomes v. Adkinson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Dakota
    • 14 Mayo 1976
    ...Constitution. (See Defendants' Brief, p. 10). This Court does not agree. The "rights-privileges" dichotomy, e. g. United States v. Walker, 409 F.2d 477 (9th Cir. 1969), has been repudiated. At most, it is but one factor to be considered. East Oakland-Fruitvale Planning Council v. Rumsfeld, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT