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BELKNAP v. UNITED STATES.

decided: December 11, 1893.

BELKNAP
v.
UNITED STATES.



APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Author: Brewer

[ 150 U.S. Page 589]

 MR. JUSTICE BREWER delivered the opinion of the court.

The history of this case is as follows: In 1882 the appellant filed his petition in the Court of Claims, alleging that as a duly appointed and commissioned United States Indian agent for a series of years, he was entitled to a salary of $1800 per annum; that he had only received a certain portion of that amount, and praying judgment for the balance. A trial was had before the court, which, on March 19, 1883, filed its findings of fact, and rendered judgment in his favor for the sum of $3400. At the same time was tried the case of Charles Mitchell v. United States, and they were both argued as presenting the same question of law, to wit, whether a public officer could "recover the difference between the salary established by law for the office which he hedl and the amount paid to him in accordance with the appropriations made by Congress." An appeal was taken in each case by the United States. That in the Mitchell case was duly entered in this court, and was submitted on briefs on March 30, 1883. On November 5 of that year this court rendered its decision in favor of the United States, reversing the judgment of the court below. 109 U.S. 146.

The appeal in the present case was taken on June 14, 1883, but was not entered by the appellant at the October term following, as required by the rules of this court. Thereupon the appellee caused the appeal to be docketed and dismissed; and on May 12, 1884, filed with the Court of Claims the mandate, in which the following orders were set out:

"And whereas, in the present term of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eighty-three, the said cause came on to be heard before the Supreme Court, and it appearing that the appellant has failed to have its appeal filed and docketed in conformity with the rules of this court: It is now here ordered and adjudged by this court that their appeal from the Court of Claims be, and the same is hereby, docketed and dismissed.

"And it is further ordered that this cause be, and the same is hereby, remanded to the said Court of Claims. (May 5, 1884.)

"You, therefore, are hereby commanded that such proceedings

[ 150 U.S. Page 590]

     be had in said cause as, according to rights and justice and the laws of the United States, ought to be had, the said appeal notwithstanding."

On the 13th of May the United States, by the Attorney General, filed a motion in the Court of Claims for a new trial on the ground that wrong and injustice in the premises had been done to the United States. The reasons therefor, as stated, were that the two cases were heard together; that in both the judgment was for the plaintiff, and both cases were appealed to the Supreme Court; that the same questions of law were involved in each case, and that the defendants understood that the appeal in this case was to abide the decision in the case of Mitchell; that, relying upon this understanding, they took no further action in this case, and it was only in consequence of such reliance that the transcript was not filed by them in the Supreme Court, and the opportunity thus given to the appellant to have the case docketed and dismissed; that by the Mitchell case the law has been decided adversely to the claim of petitioner, and, therefore, that wrong and injustice would under the circumstances be done by permitting the judgment to stand.

On the 2d of June, 1884, the Court of Claims sustained the motion, and granted a new trial. Of this appellant complains. As the new trial was granted at a term subsequent to that at which the original judgment was rendered, (the terms of the Court of Claims beginning on the first Monday in December in each year, Rev. Stat. § 1052,) there would ordinarily be no power in the court to grant such new trial. Coughlin v. District of Columbia, 106 U.S. 7; Brooks v. Railroad Company, 102 U.S. 107.But there is in the Revised Statutes a peculiar provision, applicable only to the Court of Claims, which is as follows:

"SEC. 1088. The Court of Claims, at any time while any claim is pending before it, or on appeal from it, or within two years next after the final disposition of such claim, may, on motion on behalf of the United States, grant a new trial and stay the payment of any judgment therein, upon such evidence, cumulative or otherwise, as shall satisfy the court

[ 150 U.S. Page 591]

     that any fraud, wrong, or injustice in the premises has been done to the United States; but until an order is made staying the payment of a judgment, the same ...


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