United States v. Midwest Oil Company
United States Supreme Court
UNITED STATES v. MIDWEST OIL COMPANY
Argued: January 9 and 12, 1914. ---
Ordered for reargument before full bench April 20, 1914.
Reargued May 7, 1914.
Decided February 23, 1915.
ON A CERTIFICATE from the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, presenting the following questions:
1. Prior to the act of June 25, 1910 (36 Stat. at L. 847, 848, chap. 421, Comp. Stat. 1913, §§ 4523, 4525), did the President (or the Secretary of the Interior) have the lawful power, 'in aid of proposed legislation affecting the use and disposition of the petroleum deposits on the public domain,' to withdraw public lands containing petroleum, and chiefly valuable therefor, from all forms of location, selection, filing, entry, or disposal under the public mineral-land laws?
2. Did petroleum withdrawal No. 5, of date September 27, 1909, have the effect of preventing the lawful location or acquisition of lands (described in said withdrawal order No. 5), which contained petroleum or other mineral oils, and were chiefly valuable therefor, by persons authorized to enter lands under the mining laws of the United States, under the provisions of the act of Congress entitled, 'An Act to Authorize the Entry and Patenting of Lands Containing Petroleum and Other Mineral Oils under the Placer-Mining Laws of the United States,' approved February 11, 1897 (29 Stat. at L. 526, chap. 216, Comp. Stat. 1913, § 4635).
3. Must the efficacy of the order of September 27, 1909, to reserve the land in controversy from the subsequent initiation and acquisition of rights under the act of February 11, 1897, supra, be held to depend upon the nature of the purpose or purposes for which it was made?
4. If question No. 3 be answered in the affirmative, then was it essential to the validity of the reservation or withdrawal that the purpose or purposes be expressed in the order itself?
5. If there were specific purposes actuating the order of September 27, 1909, sufficient in law to sustain it, and consistent with, but not appearing in, its language, was it incumbent on the plaintiff to allege such specific purposes in its bill in order to have the advantage of them as against the defendant's motion to dismiss?
6. Assuming that the general purposes expressed in the order of September 27, 1909, do not suffice alone to determine its validity or invalidity, and that there might have been another consistent purpose sufficient to sustain it, should the order be presumed to be valid in the absence of any allegation or proof that such other purpose did not exist?
This suit originated in a bill in equity filed by the United States in the District Court of the United States for the District of Wyoming, seeking to recover certain tracts of petroleum lands and to obtain an accounting for petroleum alleged to have been illegally extracted therefrom. The court sustained the defendant's demurrer and dismissed the bill, whereupon the government took the case to the Circuit Court of Appeals, which rendered no decision, but certified the above questions to the Supreme Court. Case remanded to the District Court, with directions to reverse the decree dismissing the bill.
The facts are stated in the opinion.
Solicitor General Davis and Assistant Attorney General Knaebel for the United States.
Messrs. Joel F. Vaile, Henry McAllister, Jr., William N. Vaile, Karl C. Schuyler, Walter F. Schuyler, A. M. Stevenson, and Lee Champion for the Midwest Oil Company et al.
[Argument of Counsel from pages 460-465 intentionally omitted]
Messrs. Aldis B. Browne, Alexander Britton, Evans Browne, Francis W. Clements, Frederic R. Kellogg, E. S. Pillsbury, Oscar Sutro, and Frank H. Short as amici curioe.
Mr. Justice Lamar delivered the opinion of the court:
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