Southern Pacific Railroad Company v. United States (200 U.S. 354)

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United States Supreme Court

200 U.S. 354

Southern Pacific Railroad Company  v.  United States

 Argued: January 24, 25, 1906. --- Decided: February 19, 1906

This case, in which, on February 28, 1901, the United States filed its bill in the circuit court for the southern district of California, resembles the one immediately preceding, in that it was a suit to cancel certain patents erroneously issued to the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and to quiet the title of the government to the lands mentioned therein; to confirm the title of certain other lands erroneously patented to the company and by it conveyed to bona fide purchasers; and to obtain an accounting and recovery from the company of the value of the lands so conveyed to bona fide purchasers. By the decree the full relief asked cancelation, confirmation, and recovery-was granted. The question presented is different in that the railroad company denies that the patents were erroneously issued. The lands were within the place limits of the railroad company's grant, but the plaintiff contends that they were excluded from the grant because within the claimed and undetermined limits of a Mexican land grant.

In 1838 one Juan Bandini received from the Mexican government a grant of what is termed the Jurupa ranch. After California was acquired under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo [9 Stat. at L. 922], and on September 25, 1852, Bandini presented his petition to the commissioners appointed under the act of Congress of March 3, 1851 (9 Stat. at L. 631, chap. 41), asking confirmation of his title, and on October 17, 1854, it was confirmed, the order of confirmation describing the boundaries of the rancho in substantially the language of the act of juridical possession.

An appeal was taken to the district court of the United States for the southern district of California, as authorized by the statute, which court, on April 5, 1861, sustained the action of the commissioners. The boundaries of the grant were thus described:

'The said boundaries being as follows: Commencing at the foot of a small hill, standing alone, at the ca nada which the Messrs. Yorba recognize as their boundary, on the further side of the river of Jurupa. which hill the Indians in their tongue call 'Pachappa,' which was taken for a landmark, placing on it certain stones on top of others; thence course westerly along the bank of the said river thirty thousand varas to the point of the same table land on which Mr. Bandini had established his house; and where the said river makes a bend, where a stake was driven for a landmark; thence northerly, fronting towards the mountains of Cucamonga, seven thousand varas, passing between the two springs of Guspar, ending at the first white sand bank which there is on said course towards Cucamonga; thence easterly the same thirty thousand varas to a small lone mountain on the left hand of the high road going from San Gabriel to San Bernardino, called by the Indians 'Catalmacay,' and which was designated as a landmark; thence southerly seven thousand varas to the point of beginning at the foot of the small hill called 'Pachappa,' which makes a corner east, west.' The confirmation was made in the name of Abel Stearns, a purchaser pending the proceedings, and substituted of record for the original petitioner. On January 14, 1869, the surveyor general of California, on application of the claimant and deposit by him of the estimated cost thereof, directed a survey of the rancho. This was made, and on February 26, 1872, the survey and field notes were filed in the office of the surveyor general of California, and by him approved. On May 13, 1876, the Commissioner of the General Land Office at Washington directed a correction of some alleged errors in this survey. On appeal from this order the Secretary of the Interior, on February 21, 1877, ordered a resurvey. This was made, and on May 23, 1879, a patent was issued conforming to such resurvey. The lands in dispute are within the limits of the first, but outside those of the second, survey, and are not included in the patent.

On May 1, 1862, an appeal to this court was prayed and allowed in the district court of California. On January 8, 1875, an order was here entered which, after stating that an appeal had been allowed by the district court, as shown by an inspection of the certificate of the clerk of that court, recites:

'And whereas, in the present term of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-four, the said cause came on to be heard before the said Supreme Court, and it appearing that the said appellant has failed to have its cause filed and docketed in conformity to the rules of this court, it is now here ordered, adjudged, and decreed by this court that this appeal from the district court of the United States for the district of California be, and the same is hereby, docketed and dismissed.'

Upon these facts a decree in favor of the plaintiff was entered by the circuit court, June 15, 1903 (59 C. C. A. 683, 123 Fed. 1007), which was affirmed by the circuit court of appeals on October 17, 1904 (66 C. C. A. 560, 133 Fed. 662), and thereupon this appeal was taken.

Mr. Maxwell Evarts for appellants.

Mr. Joseph H. Call for appellee.

Statement by Mr. Justice Brewer:

Mr. Justice Brewer 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).