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[247 U.S. 243, 244] Messrs. Charles R. Pierce, of Washington, D. C., and Lyndon A. Smith and Clifford L. Hilton, both of St. Paul, Minn., for complainant.
Mr. Assistant Attorney General Kearful, for defendants.
Mr. Justice DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.
This bill of complaint is filed by the state of Minnesota to quiet title to certain lands in that state, and to enjoin the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of the General Land Office from issuing patents for the lands to the Immigration Land Company, a corporation of the state of Minnesota. The government filed a motion to dismiss the bill upon the following grounds:
From the allegations of the bill it appears that the state claims title to the lands under Act of August 3, 1892, c. 362, 27 Stat. 347.1 [247 U.S. 243, 245] The Immigration Land Company claims title under section 5 of the Act of March 3, 1887, c. 376, 24 Stat. 556,2 relat- [247 U.S. 243, 246] ing to the adjustment of land grants to railroad companies.
The last-named statute provides that where the railroad company shall have sold to citizens of the United States as a part of its grant lands not conveyed to or for the use of the company, said lands being the numbered sections prescribed in the grant, and being coterminous with the constructive parts of the road, and where the lands so sold are for any reason excepted from the operation of the grant, it shall be lawful for a bona fide purchaser thereof from said company, to make payment to the United States for the lands at the ordinary government price for like lands, and thereupon patents shall issue to the bona fide purchaser, his heirs or assigns.
Under this act, on February 9, 1907, the Land Company made application in the Land Department to purchase the land, claiming to be the assignee of a bona fide purchaser of the lands from the railroad company. The state of Minnesota protested against the issuance of a patent to the Immigration Land Company, and claimed the land under the act of August 3, 1892, under which undisposed-of lands of the United States, situated in certain sections and townships, were granted to the state for a public park. The act of 1892 also provides that it shall not in any manner interfere with, supersede, suspend, modify or annul the vested right of any person, company, or corporation in respect to any of the land existing at the date of the passage of the act.
A hearing was had before the commissioner of the General Land Office upon the issue made between the [247 U.S. 243, 247] state of Minnesota and the Immigration Land Company, wherein the Commissioner held:
Of the issues involved the Commissioner said:
After an opinion, in which the issues were considered, the Commissioner reached the conclusion.
The decision of the Commissioner of the General Land Office was affirmed by the Secretary of the Interior, and [247 U.S. 243, 249] a rehearing denied. State of Minnesota v. Immigration Land Co., 46 Land Dec. 14.
The purpose of the bill filed in this case is to quiet title to the lands in controversy by a decree in favor of the state of Minnesota notwithstanding the decision of the Secretary of the Interior, and to enjoin that officer from issuing patents for the lands to the Immigration Land Company.
We are of opinion that the state has mistaken its remedy, and if it be true that the secretary has made a mistake in overruling the contention of the state that the title passed to it under the act of August 3, 1892, relief must be sought in the courts after the issuance f patent.
The grant to the state of August 3, 1892, was of all undisposed-of lands in certain townships, and section 2 specifically provided that it should not interfere with, supersede, suspend, modify or annul the vested rights of any person, company, or corporation in respect to any of said lands existing at the date of the passage of the act. The act of March 3, 1887, permitting bona fide purchasers of certain lands, in the manner which we have stated, to make payment and acquire title to the lands excepted from the operation of the railroad grant, was then in full force. A part of these lands had been purchased before the act granting them to the state, by the Immigration Land Company, and the Secretary of the Interior held that the title thus acquired was superior to that of the state, and patents were about to be issued, in accordance with the decision of the Secretary, to such bona fide purchaser. This decision is not of an arbitrary character, and was made upon full hearing before the department of the government intrusted with the administration of the public land laws, and the patents were still unissued when this suit was brought.
This is not a case where the title had passed absolutely in favor of the claimant, as was the fact in Lane v. Watts, [247 U.S. 243, 250] 234 U.S. 525 , 34 Sup. Ct. 965; Id., 235 U.S. 17 , 35 Sup. Ct. 3. It is a case where the grant was in terms of 'undisposed-of lands,' and subject to the vested rights of others. As against those holding such lands the title was not intended to pass.
The act of 1887, under which the Immigration Land Company claims title, specifically provides that patents shall be issued for lands to which the purchaser is entitled. The patents not having issued, the lands in controversy were still in course of administration in that department of the government which, until patent issues, has exclusive control of proceedings to acquire the title.
As we have said, the remedy must be sought in the courts after the issuance of patent. Under such circumstances as are here disclosed this court has uniformly so held. Litchfield v. The Register et al., 9 Wall. 575, 577; Michigan Land & Lumber Co. v. Rust, 168 U.S. 589, 592 , 593 S., 18 Sup. Ct. 208; Brown v. Hitchcock, 173 U.S. 473 , 19 Sup. Ct. 485; Kirwan v. Murphy, 189 U.S. 35 , 23 Sup. Ct. 599; Lane v. Mickadiet, 241 U.S. 201, 208 , 209 S., 36 Sup. Ct. 599.
It follows that the bill of the state must be dismissed, and it is so ordered.
Mr. Justice McREYNOLDS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
[ Footnote 1 ] 'Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that all undisposed lands of the United States situated in the following subdivisions, according to the public surveys thereof, to wit: Section six of township one hundred and forty-two; sections six, seven, eighteen, nineteen, thirty, and thirty- one of township one hundred and forty-three, all in range thirty-five; sections one, two, three and four of township one hundred and forty-two; and sections one, two, three, four, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty- four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five and thirty-six of township one hundred and forty- three, all in range thirty-six, situate in the district of lands subject to sale at Saint Cloud and Crookston, Minnesota, is hereby forever granted to the state of Minnesota, to be perpetually used by said state as and for a public state park: Provided, that the land hereby granted shall revert to the United States, together with all improvements thereon, if at any time it shall cease to be exclusively used for a public state park; or if the state shall not pass a law or laws to protect the timber thereon. 'Sec. 2. That this act shall not in any manner whatsoever interfere with, supersede, suspend modify, or annul the vested rights of any person, company, or corporation, in respect to any of said lands existing at the date of the passage of this act.'
[ Footnote 2 ] 'That where any said company shall have soid to citizens of the United States, or to persons who have declared their intention to become such citizens, as a part of its grant, lands not conveyed to or for the use of such company, said lands being the numbered sections prescribed in the grant, and being co-terminous with the constructive parts of said road, and where the lands so sold are for any reason excepted from the operation of the grant to said company, it shall be lawful for the bona fide purchaser thereof from said company to make payment to the United States for said lands at the ordinary goverment price for like lands, and thereupon patents shall issue therefore to the said bona fide purchaser, his heirs or assigns: Provided, that all lands shall be excepted from the provisions of this section which at the date of such sales were in the bona fide occupation of adverse claimants under the Pre-emption or Homestead Laws of the United States, and whose claims and occupation have not since been voluntarily abandoned, as to which excepted lands the said pre-emption and homestead claimants shall be permitted to perfect their proofs and entries and receive patents therefor: Provided further, that this section shall not apply to lands settled upon subsequent to the first day of December, eighteen hundred and eighty-two, by persons claiming to enter the same under the Settlement Laws of the United States, as to which lands the parties claiming the same as aforesaid shall be entitled to prove up and enter as in other like cases.'
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Citation: 247 U.S. 243
Docket No: No. 20
Argued: April 15, 1918
Decided: June 03, 1918
Court: United States Supreme Court
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