United States v. Union Pacific R. Co. , 168 U.S. 505 ( 1897 )

  • 168 U.S. 505 (1897)


    No. 133.

    Supreme Court of United States.

    Argued December 2, 1897.
    Decided December 13, 1897.

    *511 Mr. Solicitor General for plaintiffs in error.

    Mr. John F. Dillon for defendants in error. Mr. A.L. Williams and Mr. Harry Hubbard were on his brief.

    *512 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

    It is settled that the certification provided for in sections five and six of the Judiciary Act of March 3, 1891, c. 517, 26 Stat. 826, is governed by the rules laid down in respect of certificates of division under the Revised Statutes. Columbus Watch Company v. Robbins, 148 U.S. 266; Maynard v. Hecht, 151 U.S. 324; Graver v. Faurot, 162 U.S. 435; Cross v. Evans, 167 U.S. 60.

    By those rules, as repeated in these cases from prior decisions, "each question had to be a distinct point or proposition of law, clearly stated, so that it could be distinctly answered without regard to the other issues of law in the case; to be a question of law only, and not a question of fact, or of mixed law and fact, and hence could not involve or imply a conclusion or judgment upon the weight or effect of testimony or facts adduced in the case; and could not embrace the whole case, even where its decision turned upon matter of law only, and even though it was split up in the form of questions." Fire Insurance Association v. Wickham, 128 U.S. 426; Dublin Township v. Milford Savings Institution, 128 U.S. 510.

    The questions propounded in this certificate do not present distinct points or propositions of law, clearly stated, so that each could be distinctly answered without regard to the other issues of law involved, and they obviously bring the whole case up for consideration and disposition.

    Elaborate argument on behalf of the Government was made at the bar, dealing with the Delaware treaties of 1831, 1854, 1860, 1861 and 1866, and the construction of various provisions thereof; with the construction of the Pacific Railroad act of July 1, 1862, c. 120, 12 Stat. 489; and also with the legislation in relation to the incorporation of the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad Company; its change of name; and consolidation with other railroad companies, under the name of the Union Pacific Railway Company. Laws Kansas, 1855, c. 86, p. 914; Act of July 2, 1864, c. 216, 13 Stat. 356; Resolution of March 3, 1869, 15 Stat. 348; Act of March 3, 1869, c. 127, 15 Stat. 324.

    *513 Defendants in error contended that the petition was fatally defective in respect of any ground of liability for the improvements; that there was no sale of the improvements separate from the lands; that the stipulated patent carried title to the improvements with the lands; that by section two of the Pacific Railroad act of July 1, 1862, the United States granted the right of way through the reservation and undertook to extinguish the Indian title; that the grant was of a free right of way, and the United States were estopped by it from maintaining the second cause of action; that this question was res judicata by the judgment of the Supreme Court of Kansas in Grinter v. Kansas Pacific Railway, 23 Kansas, 642; that the line of the Kansas Pacific Company upon the right of way in question was not the line of the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western Railroad Company or its successor, but of an independent corporation created by an act of Congress; and that even on the theory of the Government the defence of laches and limitations was available and formed a complete bar.

    To answer the questions certified would require us to consider the several matters thus pressed on our attention; to pass upon questions of law not specifically propounded; and to dispose of the whole case. It follows that the certificate is insufficient under the statute.

    Certificate dismissed.