Chase v. United States
155 U.S. 489 (1894)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Chase v. United States, 155 U.S. 489 (1894)

Chase v. United States

No. 83

Argued November 19, 1894

Decided December 10, 1894

155 U.S. 489

Syllabus

Judgments in a district or circuit court of the United States in cases brought under the Act of March 3, 1887, c. 359, 24 Stat. 505, are not required to be brought here for revision by appeal only, but may be brought by writ of error; but they will be reexamined here only when the record contains a specific finding of facts with the conclusions of law thereon.

On the 1st day of May, 1870, the Postmaster General had no authority to contract in writing for the lease of accommodations for a local post office in a building for a term of twenty years.

This writ of error brought up a judgment of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Indiana, dismissing

Page 155 U. S. 490

a suit instituted against the United States by the personal representatives of Hiram W. Chase.

It appears from the statement of facts made by the court below that on the 17th day of July, 1866, John K. Snider leased for a term of ten years a certain lot with the building thereon in Lafayette, Indiana, to be occupied by the United States as a post office; that the building was so occupied until December, 1869, when it was destroyed by fire; that James Montgomery, previous to the fire, became the owner of the property, and entitled to the benefit of the lease; that on the 1st day of May, 1870, Montgomery made a lease, in form to the United States represented by the Postmaster General, for the term of twenty years and at an annual rental of $1,500, payable in equal quarterly instalments, of certain parts of a building which he covenanted to erect upon the same lot. He also covenanted to supply and keep in repair to the satisfaction of the Postmaster General all boxes and fixtures necessary for a post office in that building.

Montgomery erected the required building and the United States took possession of it. On the 15th day of April, 1870, he assigned his interest in the lease to one Tuttle, who, on the 10th of February, 1871, assigned to Chase, tho. testator of the plaintiff. Subsequently, May 10, 1886, the government, without complaining of any violation of the terms of the lease, vacated the premises and refused to pay rent thereafter.

During the occupancy of the premises Chase laid out and expended for furniture, fixtures, and required changes the sum of $2,000, and at the time the premises were vacated he was engaged in conformity with the request of the postal officers in making other repairs and additions.

The present action was brought on the lease to recover the amount due for the unexpired term.

The Circuit Court adjudged that the Postmaster General had no authority to execute the lease, and that the government was not liable to suit upon it. For that reason, the suit was dismissed. 44 F. 732.

That judgment being brought here by writ of error, a motion was made to dismiss the writ, on the ground that there

Page 155 U. S. 491

was no jurisdiction in this court by writ of error to review the judgment complained of. The hearing of this motion was postponed to the hearing on the merits.

Page 155 U. S. 495

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