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UNITED STATES v. COMMONWEALTH TITLE INSURANCE AND TRUST COMPANY

April 4, 1904

UNITED STATES
v.
COMMONWEALTH TITLE INSURANCE AND TRUST COMPANY



APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF CLAIMS

Fuller, Harlan, Brewer, Brown, White, Peckham, McKenna, Holmes, Day

Author: Mckenna

[ 193 U.S. Page 653]

 MR. JUSTICE McKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.

The question involved in this case is whether a mortgagee

[ 193 U.S. Page 654]

     who has foreclosed his mortgage and purchased the property mortgaged at sheriff's sale under a decree of the court is an assignee of the owner of the land within section 2 of an act of Congress approved June 16, 1880. 21 Stat. 287.

The section reads as follows:

"SEC. 2. In all cases where homestead or timber-culture or desert-land entries or other entries of public lands have heretofore or shall hereafter be cancelled for conflict, or where from any cause the entry has been erroneously allowed and cannot be confirmed, the Secretary of the Interior shall cause to be repaid to the person who made the entry, or to his heirs or assigns, the fees and commissions, amount of purchase money and excesses paid upon the same, upon the surrender of the duplicate receipt and the execution of a proper relinquishment of all claims to said land, whenever such entry shall have been duly cancelled by the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and in all cases where parties have paid double minimum price for land which was afterwards found not to be within the limits of a railroad land grant, the excess of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre shall in like manner be repaid to the purchaser thereof or to his heirs or assigns."

It is provided by the rules of the General Land Office that application for repayment under this section shall be accompanied by a duly executed deed, where the title has become a matter of record, relinquishing to the United States all right and claim to the land under the entry or patent.

The case is this: In 1888 one Amanda Cormack made settlement upon one hundred and sixty acres of land in the Helena land district of Montana, and paid $200, being at the rate of $1.25 per acre. Subsequently, May 10, 1890, she borrowed from the Northwest Guarantee Loan Company $300, and gave her note therefor, due in three years, and secured the note by a mortgage on the land. On January 9, 1890, the said company assigned the note and mortgage to the Commonwealth Title Insurance Company, the appellee. The instruments were all duly recorded.

[ 193 U.S. Page 655]

     July 8, 1890, the General Land Office informed the local office that 120 acres of the land entered had been recommended and selected for reservoir purposes, and on August 16, 1894, the Commissioner of the General Land Office cancelled all of the land entered except the N.W. 1/4 of the N.E. 1/4 of section 28, as being in conflict with the Box Elder Reservation system. Subsequently appellee brought suit to foreclose said mortgage, and such proceedings were had therein that on August 16, 1897, the mortgaged property was duly sold to appellee for $200, and a sheriff's deed duly executed and delivered to appellee.

Thereafter appellee applied to the Commissioner of the General Land Office for the repayment to him of the sum of $150, being $1.25 per acre paid by Amanda Cormack for the 120 acres cancelled. The application was refused by the Commissioner. The Secretary of the Interior reversed the ruling and allowed the repayment upon the relinquishment by appellee of all claim to the land so cancelled. The relinquishment was duly made and the claim was transmitted to the Treasury Department for final settlement. The Auditor of that ...


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