CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
Hughes, Holmes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts
MR. JUSTICE BUTLER delivered the opinion of the Court.
May 31, 1919, the relator, under § 5 of the Act of March 2 of that year, 40 Stat. 1272, known as the War Minerals Relief Act, filed with the Secretary of the Interior a claim for net losses alleged to have been suffered by reason of producing or preparing to produce chrome in compliance with the request of the Secretary. The claim included an item of $16,259 asserted to be a net loss by
reason of the expenditure of that amount for the purchase of land upon which the mine was located. Relator still holds the title. May 15, 1922, the Secretary held that under the Act he was not authorized to adjust or pay losses by reason of expenditures for the purchase of property, and on that ground denied any award on account of that item.
In Work v. Rives (1925), 267 U.S. 175, we held that the Act made the Secretary's decisions conclusive. But Congress, by the Act of February 13, 1929, 45 Stat. 1166, authorized the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia to review the final decision of the Secretary upon any question of law which had arisen or might thereafter arise in the adjustment of such claims, expressly leaving his decisions on questions of fact conclusive.
February 18, 1929, relator sued for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary to take jurisdiction and to adjust and pay relator its net losses suffered by reason of the purchase of such property. The court held the Secretary rightly decided the question of law and dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals, following its earlier decision in Work v. United States, 295 Fed. 225 (reversed here on the ground that under the Act of 1919 the Secretary's construction was not subject to review) held the Secretary erred in law and reversed the judgment. 47 F.2d 422. This court granted a writ of certiorari. 283 U.S. 817.
The question for decision is: To what extent, if at all, does the statute empower the Secretary in respect of net loss incurred by relator by reason of its expenditure for such land?
During the World War certain mineral substances and products, including chrome, became essential to the nation's defense. The need having become very great, Congress by the Act of October 5, 1918, 40 Stat. 1009, declared a large number of such materials to be necessaries, empowered
the President, through such agencies as he should designate, to acquire and distribute the same and also to requisition, develop and operate lands, mines and plants capable of producing them, and appropriated $50,000,000 to carry out the purpose ...