« PreviousContinue »
The circuit and district courts may punish" by fine or imprisonment.” It is specially provided, however, that “such power to pun
, ish contempts shall not be construed to extend to any cases except the misbehavior of any person in their presence, or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice, the misbehavior of any of the officers of said courts in their official transactions, and the disobedience or resistance by any such officer, or by any party, juror, witness, or other person, to any lawful writ, process, order, rule, decree, or cominand of the said courts.” Rev. St. sec. 725.
The court was not called upon in a single instance to punish for contempt, or to issue its process to enforce the production of books and papers. Claimants, however, not unfrequently produced their books of accounts for the inspection of the court at the trial.
In all claims which shall be presented before said court. — A single word upon the name by which the proceedings in the court are to be called. In its ordinary sense a “claim ” imports the assertion, , demand, or challenge of something as a right; or it means the thing thus demanded, “an assertion of one's right or demand to possess or enjoy something as one's own." Abbott's Law Dict., title Claim. Throughout this legislation the idea is kept prominent that the judicial body it has called into being is to receive, investigate, and adjudicate claims. The person“ prosecuting the claim” is deemed the complainant. When a favorable result is reached, the claim disappears as such — a judgment against the United States taking its place.
In a stricter sense, perhaps, it may be said that the word “ claim” ought to be applied to the thing demanded. As soon as a petition is filed, and the formal statement of the asserted demand put upon the record, the proceeding assumes the shape of a “suit.” Indeed the word “suit,” it is to be observed, occurs in section five of the act of 1874. A counsellor-at-law is to be designated by the President “ to appear as counsel in behalf of the United States and represent the interest of the Government in said suit, and in all claims filed, &c.” Doubtless, as this is the only instance where the word “suit" is employed, reference is here had to the language near the close of section three, denominating the person prosecuting the claim as “the complainant," and the United States as the “respondent.” Section seventeen speaks of the hearing of the cause,” and, turning to section eighteen, we find mention made of “the judgment” in a
COUNSEL OF UNITED STATES.
“case.” So, in the organic act creating the Court of Claims, as reenacted in Revised Statutes, sections 1059-1093, the words “claim," "cause,” and “case” are used indiscriminately to denote the proceedings in that tribunal."
Section four of the act of 1874 is as follows :
That each of the said judges shall be paid monthly, at the rate of six thousand dollars per annum; and they shall have a clerk, who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to be paid at the rate of three thousand dollars per annum; and the said court shall have authority to appoint one shorthand reporter, to be paid monthly, at the rate of two thousand five hundred dollars per annum; and said court shall be further allowed the necessary actual expenses of office-rent, furniture, fuel, stationery, and printing, and other necessary incidental expenses, to be certified by the presiding judge of said court, and to be audited and paid on vouchers under the direction of the Secretary of State.
Clerk. - At the same time with the appointment of the judges, President Grant sent to the Senate the name of John Davis, Esq., of Massachusetts, as clerk of the court. This appointment was confirmed. Mr. Davis discharged the onerous and responsible duties of his office with marked ability. His report, made to the Secretary of State (Mr. Fish) January 5, 1877, will be found in the Report of the Secretary of State to the President, January 20, 1877, and by the President transmitted on that day to the Senate. XLIV. Congr., 2d Session, Senate, Ex. Doc. No. 21.
Section five of the act of 1874 is as follows:
That the President may designate a counsellor-at-law, admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States, to appear as counset on behalf of the United States, and represent the interest of the Government in said suit, and in all claims filed for indemnity for losses, as provided by this act, subject to the supervision and control of the Attorney General. Such counsel shall receive for his services and expenses such reasonable allowance in each claim as may be approved by the court, to be apportioned in each claim adjudicated, and paid from said award upon the certificate of one of the judges.
1 The use of this or that word is not material, so long as it is kept in mind that the tribunal we are contemplating is a court, and not a mere commission.
Counsel in behalf of the United States. — The President, on July 22, 1874, designated and appointed Hon. John A. J. Creswell, of Maryland (formerly Postmaster General), as counsel in behalf of the United States. The ability, fidelity, and ardor with which General Creswell represented the interests of the Government elicited from the court an expression of their high appreciation, which was entered upon the record.
Once begun, the work of trying cases day after day went steadily on. The energy and physical strength of no one man could have proved equal to the strain, and General Creswell was forced to ask the court for relief. With one voice they directed him to invite some member of the bar to act as his assistant. The selection he made was approved by the court, and an assistant counsel in behalf of the United States was engaged in trying cases for several months. The cases in which this gentleman was of counsel for private claimants, the court very considerately allowed to stand over until such time as the condition of the docket would permit of his resigning the office.
Section six of the act of 1874 is as follows:
That the marshal of the United States for the District of Columbia, or his deputies, shall serve all process issued by said court, preserve order in the place of sitting, and execute the orders of said court.
Marshal. — Alexander Sharp, at that time marshal of the United States for the District of Columbia (now a paymaster in the army, with the rank of major), discharged the duties of marshal of the court, as provided in the act; and R. W. C. Mitchell acted as shorthand reporter.
DURATION OF COURT, AND OF TIME FOR FILING CLAIMS.
SECTION 3. That the judges of the court hereby reestablished shall convene and organize, in the city of Washington, as soon as practicable after their appointment; and the court so organized shall exist two years ; and all claims provable under this act shall be verified by or in behalf of the claimant and filed with the clerk of said court within six months from its organization, or they shall be held to be waived and barred.
SHALL EXIST TWO YEARS. This means that the court shall exist two years from the date of its organization, and not merely two years from June 5, 1882, the date of the approval of this act. are to construe the act in connection with the statute of 1874, the two acts being in pari materia. See section eight of the act of 1874, infra.
SHALL BE VERIFIED. AND FILED ... WITHIN SIX MONTHS. The language of the corresponding provision in the act of 1874 is as follows:
“ All claims shall be verified by oath of the claimant, and filed in said court within six months next after the organization thereof, as provided in section eight of this act ; and no claim shall be received, docketed, or considered that shall have not been so filed within the time aforesaid ; but every such unrepresented claim shall be deemed and held to be finally and conclusively waived and barred.” See section eleven, infra.
The obvious purpose of Congress in fixing a time within which claims shall be filed is to secure to the United States due and seasonable notice of all claims that are to be presented. The court uniformly placed a liberal construction upon this provision. They laid down the rule that “where a party claimant is beyond the limits of the United States, and it is impossible at the time of making the petition to procure his oath, the oath of his authorized attorney is sufficient to make his petition admissible, provided the facts of such absence and inability to procure such oath are set out in a petition or in an annexed affidavit;” and admitted a petition verified by the wife of a claimant (who was also his attorney), he himself being absent at sea and not expected home until too late to file his petition.
The present act, it is to be noticed, requires a claim to be verified by or in behalf of the claimant, whereas the act of 1874 provided that it should be verified by “the oath of the claimant.” By inserting the words “in behalf of,” we may infer that Congress merely sanctions the practice of the court as above described. There seems to be no good reason why a person who assumes to act in behalf of the claimant as his agent should not be required by the court to show by affidavit the character of his authority, and the circumstances under which the necessity for thus acting arose.
1 Chadwick v. United States (No 238) Rep. 13.
An attorney and next friend of I. filed a petition, in I.'s name, for loss of personal effects and wages. It did not appear at first whether he was alive when the claim was filed. Subsequently, and after the time allowed for filing petitions had expired, his death was suggested, and a motion made to substitute an administrator as complainant. At the trial of the case it appeared that the party had died at a date prior to that on which the petition was filed. The petition was dismissed. No opinion was delivered; but the court apparently sustains the position of the counsel on behalf of the United States, that the claim, being filed by a person having no standing in court (the next friend of a deceased person being without authority to act), cannot be amended by bringing in a new partyclaimant after the time for filing claims has expired.
Letters of administration or letters testamentary granted in any State of the United States give authority to sue in this court. Aliter, of a foreign administrator. But where a foreign administrator filed a petition as complainant, counsel was permitted to amend by substituting an administrator appointed by the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.?
Leave was given 3 to substitute an administrator as claimant, when the claim had been brought in the name of a person deceased at the time the petition was filed. The court said that filing a claim on behalf of a veritable individual satisfied the requirements of the act; and that, "owing to the peculiar circumstances of these claims, they should not be allowed to perish through a strict adherence to the technical rules of courts of law. The act merely requires that the claim shall be presented.” Per WELLS, P. J. From this ruling PORTER, J., dissented, holding that, the parties in whose names the claims were brought being dead at the time they were filed, the petition was a nullity, and could not be amended.
But where the claimant, a former master of a whaling vessel, assumed to act on behalf of other officers and of seamen of the
1 Ignacio v. United States (Nos. 1371), 1542 Rep. 13. 2 Smith v. United States (No. 2026) Rep. 13. 3 Montgomery v. United States (No. 2055), and other cases Rep. 13.