Ashburner v. California
103 U.S. 575

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ashburner v. California, 103 U.S. 575 (1880)

Ashburner v. California

103 U.S. 575

Syllabus

The statute of California approved April 15, 1880, limiting to four years the terms of office of the commissioners required by the Act of Congress of June 30, 1864, c. 184, 13 Stat. 325, "to be appointed by the executive of California" to manage the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove, is not repugnant to that act, and may be followed by him in making his appointments.

This is an action in the nature of a writ of quo warranto instituted by the State of California in the Superior Court for Sacramento County to determine the right of Ashburner to hold the office of member of the board of commissioners to "manage the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Tree Grove." The complaint charges that he, on May 1, 1880, usurped the office and has since unlawfully withheld the same and wrongfully continued to discharge the duties thereof. This allegation the defendant denies.

The case was submitted to the court upon an agreed statement of facts, from which it appears that in pursuance of the act of Congress, entitled "An Act authorizing a grant to the State of California of the Yosemite Valley, and the land embracing the Mariposa Big Tree Grove," approved June 30, 1864, and an act of the legislature of California, entitled

"An Act to accept the grant by the United States government to the State of California of the Yosemite Valley and Big Tree Grove, and to organize the board of commissioners, and to fully empower them to carry out the objects of the grant, and fulfill the purposes of the trust,"

approved April 2, 1866, the governor of the state appointed the defendant one of the commissioners provided for in said acts, and that at the time of the passage of the act of the legislature, entitled "An Act to provide for the management of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove," approved April 15, 1880, he was acting as such commissioner; that on April 19, 1880, after the adoption of "Senate concurrent resolution No. 20, relating to appointment of eight commissioners to manage the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove," adopted Feb. 17, 1880, and the passage of the act of April 15, 1880, the governor, in pursuance

Page 103 U. S. 576

of said concurrent resolution and said act, and by virtue of the authority thereby conferred upon him, appointed certain persons, of whom the defendant was not one, to be such commissioners, and each of them accepted the appointment, took, subscribed, and filed an oath of office in the manner and form prescribed by law for the officers of the government of the state; that more than four years had elapsed after the appointment of the defendant and before the passage of the act of April 15, 1880; that the defendant was not reappointed as such commissioner; that each of the commissioners appointed April 19, 1880, and the board by them composed, duly demanded of the defendant that he surrender the office and cease to discharge the duties thereof; but that he refused and still refuses to comply with the demand, it having been made after the qualification of the commissioners and before the commencement of this action; that the defendant has, ever since the passage of the Act of April 15, 1880, continued to discharge the duties of commissioner, and has during all that time claimed, and still claims, that he is by law entitled to be a commissioner, and a member of the board as organized and existing at the time of the passage of that act, and to exercise and discharge all the powers, authority, and duties of commissioner, and of a member of the board, he claiming and insisting that the board and the members thereof continue to be and are such board, notwithstanding the passage of that act and the appointments made by the governor April 19, 1880.

The provisions of the Act of June 30, 1864, c. 184, 13 Stat. 325, are set forth in the opinion of the Court.

Sect. 1 and 5 of the statute of California approved April 15, 1880, are as follows:

"SEC. 1. The Governor of the state of California, and the eight other commissioners appointed by him in accordance with the act of Congress, entitled 'An Act authorizing a grant to the state of California of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove,' approved June thirteenth, eighteen hundred and sixty-four, shall constitute a board to manage such premises, and the governor shall be ex-officio member of the commission and president of the board. The term of office of the commissioners shall be four years, provided that the eight first appointed shall so classify themselves, that

Page 103 U. S. 577

four shall go out of office in two years, and four in four years, and thereafter the appointments shall be made four each two years. Vacancies occurring in said commission from death, resignation, or other causes, shall be filed by appointment, by the governor, to serve for the unexpired term only."

"SEC. 5. The said commission shall, immediately after organizing, demand from the commissioners now acting, all the books, papers, and documents of any and every kind, pertaining to the business of the board, and it shall be the duty of the commissioners now acting to immediately comply with said demand."

The superior court rendered judgment in favor of the defendant, and that judgment having been reversed by the supreme court of the state, Ashburner sued out this writ of error.

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