Ryan v. Thomas

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

71 U.S. 603

Ryan  v.  Thomas

THOMAS brought suit against Ryan, in the St. Louis Land Court, an inferior State court of Missouri, for a tract of land in that State. The only question was as to the validity of a patent granted by the United States to a fictitious person. The inferior court held that the patent was valid; but the Supreme Court of the State, in 1857, reversed the judgment, and held that the patent to a fictitious person was a nullity. The case having been tried again in the inferior court, was again, in 1860, before the Supreme Court of the State, and it being proved that the supposed fictitious person was simply a false name assumed by an actual person, that court held that, although a patent issued to a person not in existence was a nullity, yet that a patent to a person under an assumed name was not void; and if such person should, under such assumed name, transfer the land to a purchaser, the title would enure to the latter; and they again reversed the judgment of the Land Court. The case was a third time tried in the inferior court, and, in 1864, a third time reached the Supreme Court, which affirmed the decision of that court, and declared that no new point was presented. Ryan now brought the case by writ of error here, conceiving, apparently, that this court had jurisdiction under the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act, which authorizes a final a judgment or decree in any suit in the highest court of law or equity of a State to be brought here on error in point of law, provided the validity of a statute of or an authority exercised under the United States is drawn in question in the State court, and the decision is against that validity.

Mr. Coffey, for the defendant in error, moved to dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction, there being, as he argued, no question which, under the Judiciary Act, could give this court appellate jurisdiction of the case.

Mr. Blair, contra.

The CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).