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ing prejudices of different jurymen, or their varying capacities to weigh evidence.
“Of course, when we speak of the conclusive presumptions attending a patent for lands, we assume that it was issued in a case where the department had jurisdiction to act and execute it; that is to say, in a case where the lands belonged to the United States, and provision had been made by law for their sale. If they never were public property, or had previously been disposed of, or if Congress had made no provision for their sale, or had reserved them, the department would have no jurisdiction to transfer them, and its attempted conveyance of them would be inoperative and void, no matter with what seeming regularity the forms of law may have been observed. The action of the department wouid, in that event, be like that of any other special tribunal not having jurisdiction of a case which it had assumed to decide. Matters of this kind, disclosing a want of jurisdiction, may be considered by a court of law. In such cases the objection to a patent reaches beyond the action of a special tribunal, and goes to the existence of a subject upon which it was competent to act.
“ The general doctrine declared may be stated in a different form, thus: a patent, in a court of law, is conclusive as to all matters properly determinable by the Land Department, when its action is within the scope of its authority; that is, when it has jurisdiction under the law to convey the land. In that court the patent is unassailable for mere errors of judgment. Indeed the doctrine as to the regularity and validity of its acts, where it has jurisdiction, goes so far that if in any circumstances under existing law a patent would be held valid, it will be presumed that such circumstances existed.
“ On the other hand, a patent may be collaterally impeached in any action, and its operation as a conveyance defeated, by showing that the department had no jurisdiction to dispose of the lands; that is, that the law did not provide for selling them, or that they had been preserved from sale or dedicated to special purposes, or had been previously transferred to others. In establishing any of these particulars, the judgment of the department, upon matters properly before it, is not assailed nor is the regularity of its proceedings called into question; but its authority to act at all is denied and shown never to have existed." In a series of
9 Citing Moore v. Wilkeson, 13 Cal. 478; Beard v. Federy, 3 Wall. 478; 18 L. ed. 88.
cases, the court has given to customs officers final and conclusive authority in the matter of appraisement and classification of imports.
In Hilton v. Merritto it was held that Congress having by statute made the appraisers' judgment final and conclusive, an appeal therefrom might not be made to the judiciary, the court saying: “We are of opinion
that the valuation made by the customs oflicers was not open to question in an action at law, as long as the officers acted without fraud and within the power conferred on them by the statute. The evidence offered by the plaintiffs and ruled out by the court tended only to show carelessness or irregularity in the discharge of their duties by the customs officers, but not that they were assuming powers not conferred by the statute."
In Buttfield v. Stranahan" the court held conclusive the judgment of the customs officers with reference to the fact whether or not a given importation of tea was of a grade that, under law, entitled it to entrance into the country.
$ 755. Fraud Orders.
In Public Clearing House v. Coyne!2 was sustained the constitutionality of a congressional delegation of authority to the Postmaster-General to determine, without the aid of the courts, whether the mail of a given concern should be excluded from the mails because fraudulent or partaking of the nature of a lottery.
In this case the constitutionality of the laws providing for " fraud orders” was denied upon the grounds: First, that they provide no judicial hearing upon the question of illegality; second, that they authorize the seizure of letters without discriminating between those which may contain, and those which may not contain, prohibited matter; and third, that they empower the Postmaster-General to confiscate the money of the addressee which has become his property by the depositing of the letter in the mails.
10 110 U. S. 97; 3 Sup. Ct. Rep. 548; 28 L. ed. 83. 11 192 U. S. 470; 24 Sup. (t Rep. 349; 48 L. ed. 525. 12 194 U. S. 497; 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 789; 48 L. ed. 1092.
As to the first of these objections the court say: “ It is too late to argue that the process of law is denied whenever the disposition of property is affected by the order of an executive department. Many, if not most, of the matters presented to these departments require for their proper solution the judgment or disere tion of the head of the department, and in many cases, notably those connected with the disposition of the public lands, the action of the department is accepted as final by the courts, and even when involving questions of law this action is attended by a strong presumption of its correctness." 13 As to the second point that the law authorizes the detention of all letters of the firm, many of which may be purely personal and having no connection with the prohibited enterprise, the court say: “In view of the fact that by these sections the postmaster is denied permission to open any letters not addressed to himself, there would seem to be no possible method of enforcing the law except by authorizing him to seize and detain all such letters.
A ruling that only such letters as were obviously connected with the enterprise could be detained would amount to practically the annulment of the law.” As to the third objection that the Postmaster-General is authorized by statute to confiscate the money or the representatire of money, of the addressee, the court say that this is based on the hypothesis, that the money or other article contained in a registered letter becomes the property of the addressee as soon as the letter is deposited in the post-office. As to this the opinion says: “The action of the Postmaster-General in seizing the letter does not operate as a confiscation of the money, or the determination
13 Citing Bates & G. Co. v. Payne, 194 U. S. 106; 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 595 ; 48 L, ed. 894.
of the title thereto; but merely as a refusal to extend the facilities of the Post-Office Department to the final delivery of the letter. Congress might undoubtedly have authorized the postmaster at the depositing office to decline to receive the letter at all if its forbidden character were known to him, but as this would be impossible, we think the power to refuse the facilities of the department to the transmission of such letter attends it at every step, from its first deposit in the mail to its final delivery to the addressee; and as the character of the letter cannot be ascertained until it arrives at the office of delivery, the government may then act and refuse to consummate the transaction. If the letter and its contents become the property of the addressee when deposited in the mail, the subsequent seizure by the government would not impair his title or prevent an action by him for the amount of remittance. True, this might be of no practical value to him, but it is a sufficient reply to show that the title to the letter did not change by its seizure by the postmaster."
Though the judgment of the Postmaster-General, as granted him by statute, has thus been held to be final and conclusive with reference to the issuance of fraud orders, the Supreme Court held in American School of Magnetic Healing v. Vcannulty!4 that the law required that this judgment should be one founded on facts ascertained by evidence, and that it might not be simply the Postmaster-General's personal judgment as to the fraudulent character of the business whose mail is to be excluded. Thus, in this case, the Postmaster-General having issued a fraud order against a corporation which assumed to heal disease through the influence of the mind, and to give advice and treatment by letter, the court declared the order not properly issued. The court say as to the claims of the plaintiffs:
There is no exact standard of absolute truth by which to prove the assertion false and a fraud. We mean by that to say that the claim of the complainants cannot be the subject of proof as of an ordinary fact.
We may not believe in the efficacy of the treatment to the extent claimed by the complainants,
14 187 U. S. 94; 23 Sup. Ct. Rep. 33; 47 L. ed. 90.
and we may have no sympathy with them in such claims, and yet their effectiveness is but a matter of opinion in any court. That the complainants had a hearing before the Postmaster-General, and that his decision was made after such hearing, cannot affect the case.”
$ 756. Chinese Exclusion Cases.
In the various Chinese exclusion cases the same principles as those already laid down have been applied. Inasmuch, however, as their application has involved questions of personal liberty rather than of property, their adoption by the courts has seemed to some oppressive, and in the Ju Toy case,15 decided in 1905, earnest dissenting opinions were filed. In Chae Chan Ping v. United States' the court held valid the Act of 1888 prohibiting Chinese laborers from entering the United States who had departed before the passage, having a certificate issued under the Act of 1882 as amended by the Act of 1884 granting them permission to return. This the court did, even though it recognized that the Act of 1888 was in contravention of express stipulations of the Treaties of 1868 and 1880 between the United States and China. In Fang Yue Ting v. United States the doctrine was again declared that the provisions of an act of Congress passed in the exercise of its constitutional authority must be upheld by the courts, even though in contravention of an earlier treaty. The power to exclude or expel aliens it held to be vested in the political departments of the government, and to be executed by the executive authority except so far as the judicial department has been authorized by treaty or statute to intervene, or where some provision of the Constitution has been violated. Having this right, the executive department, it was held, might be authorized to provide a system of registration and identification of Chinese laborers, and to require them to obtain certificates of residence, and to provide for the deportation of those not so obtaining cer
15 United States v. Ju Toy, 198 U. S. 253; 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 644; 49 L. ed. 1040.
16 130 U. S. 581; 9 Sup. Ct. Rep. 623; 32 L. ed. 1068.