« AnteriorContinuar »
In Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson,34 in which was contested the constitutionality of that section of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 which authorized and required the circuit courts of the United States to use their processes in aid of inquiries before the Commission, the general doctrines regarding the circumstances under which aid may be given by the courts to administrative agencies are considered at length.
$ 753. Judicial Powers of Administrative Agents.
From what has gole before it will have been seen that though the courts will not perform administrative acts, there is no.constitutional objection to vesting the performance of acts essentially judicial in character in the hands of the executive or administrative agents, provided the performance of these functions is properly incidental to the execution by the department in question of functions peculiarly its own. Furthermore, as we shall later see, there is, subject to the same qualification, no objection to rendering the administrative determinations conclusive, that is, without an appeal to the courts, provided in general the requirements of due process of law as regards the right of the person affected to a hearing, to produce evidence, etc., have been met.
the less a judgment because its effect may be to aid an administrative or executive body in the performance of duties legally imposed upon it by Con. gress in execution of a power granted by the Constitution.'” The last clause is quoted from Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson, 154 U. S. 447 ; 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1125; 38 L. ed. 1047.
34 154 U. S. 447; 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 1125; 38 L. ed. 1047.
CONCLUSIVENESS OF ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATIONS. 8 754. Due Process of Law Does not Demand Determination of
Rights in Courts of Law. Due process of law does not require that personal and property rights shall in all cases be finally determined in courts of law. A leading case upon this point is Murray v. Hoboken Land & Improvement Co.? in which it was held that the issuance of a distress warrant under an act of Congress by the Solicitor of the Treasury of the United States against a delinquent collector was not reviewable by the courts except to determine the legal authority of the officer to issue it: “ There are,” say the court, “ matters involving public rights, which may be presented in such form that the judicial power is capable of acting on them, and which are susceptible of judicial determination but which Congress may or may not bring within the cognizance of the courts of the United States, as it may seem proper.
It is true, also, that even in a suit between private persons to try a question of private right, the action of the executive power upon a matter committed to its determination by the Constitution and laws, is conclusive." ?
The principle then is, as has been more fully shown in the chapter entitled “Due Process of Law," the prohibition imposed by the Constitution upon both the national and state gorernments that life, liberty, or property shall not be taken without “due process of law," means not so much that a specific mode of procedure shall be followed, as that in that procedure certain fundamental principles looking to the protection of the individual against oppression and injustice shall be followed. In accordance with this interpretation it has been held that the determination of facts upon which a given right of life, liberty or property may depend, need not necessarily be placed in the hands
118 How. 272; 15 L. ed. 372.
2 Citing Luther v. Borden, 7 How. 1; 12 L. ed. 581; Doe v. Braden, 16 How. 635; 14 L. ed. 1090.
of the courts but may be conclusively determined by executive agents. In Murray's Lessee v. Hoboken Land and Improvement Co.* above quoted, it was held that Congress might endow an administrative officer with the power to determine the amount due from a government officer, and to enforce its collection, without the intervention of the courts, by a distress warrant issued by the Solicitor for the Treasury. In Springer v. United States a similar authority was granted the executive arm for the collection of a tax from a private citizen, the court saying: “The prompt payment of taxes is always important to the public welfare. It may be vital to the existence of the government. The idea that every taxpayer is entitled to the delays of litigation is unreasonable. If the laws here in question involve any wrong or unnecessary harshness, it was for Congress, or the people who make congresses, to see the evil was corrected. The remedy does not lie with the judicial branch of the government."
The same finality that has been essential to administrative determinations has been predicated of the decisions of tribunals established under the treaty-making power. In Comegys v. Vasse" the court say, referring to the treaty of 1819 between the United States and Spain: “ The object of the treaty was to invest the commissions with full power and authority to receive, examine, and decide upon the amount and validity of the asserted claims upon Spain, for damages and injuries. Their decision, within the scope of this authority, is conclusive and final. pronounce the claim valid or invalid, if they ascertain the amount, their award in the premises is not re-examinable. The parties must abide by it, as he decree of a competent tribunal of exclusive jurisdiction. A. rejected claim can not be brought again under review, in any judicial tribunal; an amount once
If they fixed, is a final ascertainment of the damages or injury.". In the last of these cases with reference to the existence of a treaty the court say “We think that in the question whether this treaty has ever been terminated, governmental action in respect to it must be regarded as of controlling importance."
3 Upon this general subject see the excellent article by Professor T. R. Powell in the American Political Science Review for August, 1907, entitled “ Conclusiveness of Administrative Determinations in the Federal Government."
4 18 How. 272; 15 L. ed. 372.
It will be noted that in several of the foregoing cases the practical requirements of efficient government furnish the basis of argument. This same justification is even more emphasized in later cases, and, with the continuing increase in number and complexity of governmental functions, we may confidently expect that the courts will strengthen the hands of the administration whenever possible. It is not to be expected, however, that the judiciary will ever resign the right to determine whether the facts administratively determined are such as fall within the field of judgment granted to the administrative agents by the law, or whether, admitting the facts to be so determined, they furnish the authority for the executive acts predicated upon them.
An instructive case upon these points is Smelting Co. v. Kemps In this case it was held that a patent for lands issued by the United States was conclusive of legal title in an action of law and could not be collaterally impeached in such action unless absolutely void on its face or issued without authority. The reasoning of the court is so comprehensive of the entire topic that an extended quotation is justified. The court say:
“ The patent of the United States is the conveyance by which the Nation passes its title to portions of the public domain. For the transfer of that title, the law has made numerous provisions, designating the persons who may acquire it and the terms of its acquisition. That the provisions may be properly carried out, a Land Department, as part of the administrative and executive branch of the government, has been created to supervise all the various proceedings taken to obtain the title, from their commencement to their close. In the course of their duty, the officers of that department are constantly called upon to hear testimony as to matters presented for their consideration, and to pass upon its competency, credibility and weight. In that respect they exercise a judicial function and, therefore, it has been held in various instances by this court that their judgment as to matters of fact, properly determined by them, is conclusive when brought to notice in a collateral proceeding. Their judgment in such cases is, like that of other special tribunals upon matters within their exclusive jurisdiction, unassailable except by a direct proceeding for its correction or annulment. The execution and record of a patent are the final acts of the officers of the government for the transfer of its title, and as they can be lawfully performed only after certain steps have been taken, that instrument, duly signed, countersigned and sealed, not merely operates to pass the title, but is in the nature of an official declaration by that branch of the government to which the alienation of the public lands, under the law, is intrusted, that all the requirements preliminary to its issue have been complied with. The presumptions thus attending it are not open to rebuttal in an action at law. It is this unassailable character which gives to it its chief, indeed, its only value, as a means of quieting its possessor in the enjoyment of the lands it embraces. If intruders upon them could compel him, in every suit for possession, to establish the validity of the action of the Land Department and the correctness of its ruling upon matters submitted to it, the patent, instead of being a means of peace and security, would subject his rights to constant and ruinous litigation. He would recorer one portion of his land if the jury were satisfied that the evidence produced justified the action of that department, and lose another portion, the title whereto rests upon the same facts, because another jury came to a different conclusion. So his rights upon different suits upon the same patent would be determined, not by its efficacy as a conveyance of the government, but according to the fluctuat
7 See also Sheppard v. Taylor, 5 Pet. 675; 8 L. ed. 269; Frelinghuysen v. Key, 110 U. S. 63; 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 462; 28 L. ed. 71; Boynton v. Blaine, 139 U. S. 306; 11 Sup. Ct. Rep. 607; 35 L. ed. 183; La Abra Silver Mining Co. v. United States, 175 V. S. 423; 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 168; 44 L. ed. 223 ; Terlinden v. Ames, 184 U. S. 270; 22 Sup. Ct. Rep. 484; 46 L. ed. 534.
8 104 U, S. 636; 26 L. ed. 875.