Johanson v. Washington
190 U.S. 179 (1903)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Johanson v. Washington, 190 U.S. 179 (1903)

Johanson v. Washington

No. 282

Argued May 1, 1903

Decided June 1, 1903

190 U.S. 179

Syllabus

Whether one assuming to act for a state or territory in selecting school lands in lieu of sections 18 and 36 had the authority to do so is a state, and not a federal, question. The policy of the government in respect to grants for school purposes has been a generous one, and acts making such grants are to be so construed as to carry out the intent of Congress, however difficult it might be to give full effect to the language used if the grants were by instrument of private conveyance.

Page 190 U. S. 180

While ordinarily a special law is not repealed by a subsequent general statute, unless the intent so to do is obvious, yet the latter act may apply to cases not provided for by the former. The general act of Congress of 1859 as to selection of school lands in lieu of sections 16 and 36 is applicable to Washington, although a special statute was passed as to it in 1853. The act of 1902 confirming selections approved by the Secretary of the Interior referred to past as well as future approvals.

The general supervision of the affairs of the Land Department is now vested in the Secretary of the Interior, and, unless Congress clearly designates some other officer to act in respect to such matters, it will be assumed that he is the officer to represent the government. His approval of a selection made by one claiming to represent a state or territory of lands in lieu of school sections 16 and 36 under the acts of 1853 and 1859 is at least a withdrawal of the selected land from private entry which continues until the selection is set aside, and if such person was authorized to act, the approval of the selection so made is, unless some direction of Congress was violated, conclusive upon the transfer of title of the selected lands.

This was an action of ejectment brought in the Superior Court of King County, Washington. The case was tried by the court without a jury. An agreed statement of facts was submitted, upon which the court found the following facts and conclusions of law:

"1. That the north half of the southwest quarter and the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 3, township 25 north, range 4 east, is of the value of $20,000, and was selected by Phillip H. Lewis, as agent for King County, Washington Territory, by filing a list of this and other lands, designated as list No. 2 of indemnity school selection at the land office at Olympia, Washington Territory, May 24, 1870, under an Act of Congress approved March 2, 1853, and an Act of Congress approved February 26, 1859, which said selection was approved by Secretary C. Delano January 27, 1872."

"2. March 13, 1893, Anton Johanson made application to enter the land aforesaid under the homestead laws, and at that time made a settlement thereon; he has ever since lived on said land; his application was rejected by the local land office, and subsequently appealed to the Commissioner of the General Land Office, and finally to the Secretary of the Interior, who,

Page 190 U. S. 181

on December 18, 1895, decided adversely to Anton Johanson."

"From the foregoing facts, the court finds as conclusions of law:"

"1. That the plaintiff was, on the 13th day of March, 1893, seized in fee and possessed and entitled to the possession to said north half of the southwest quarter and the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter, section 3, township 25 north, range 4 east."

"2. That on the said 13th day of March, 1893, defendant unlawfully entered said premises and ejected the plaintiff therefrom, and unlawfully retains possession thereof."

The judgment of the superior court having been affirmed by the supreme court of the state, 26 Wash. 668, the case was brought here on error.

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