Causey v. United States - 240 U.S. 399 (1916)
U.S. Supreme Court
Causey v. United States, 240 U.S. 399 (1916)
Causey v. United States
Argued January 26, 1916
Decided March 6, 1916
240 U.S. 399
The rule that findings of fact concurred in by the master and both courts below should not be disturbed unless clearly erroneous applied in this case to findings that the original entryman had entered into an unlawful agreement and fraud to pass title when acquired to another.
It is immaterial in such a case whether a homestead entry is perfected by five years' residence and cultivation or by commutation and payment of minimum price, as an agreement to obtain the land for another disqualifies the entryman from acquiring the title in either mode.
While there is no controlling statute, and it is therefore essential that a suit in the name of the United States to cancel a homestead patent be brought with the approval of the Attorney General, that objection, in this case, is met by the fact that the United States is represented in this Court by an assistant attorney general and the production of a letter of the Attorney General authorizing the suit.
This Court may infer in the circumstances of this case that the letter was exhibited in the courts below to meet the objection that the case was brought without the sanction of the Attorney General.
The United States, in disposing of its public lands, is not on the same plane as a mere seller of real estate at market value; questions of enforcement of statutes and of public policy are involved in suits to cancel patents, and the rule applicable to private contracts that the vendor seeking to rescind must be ready to return the consideration does not apply to the government in such a suit.
A wrongdoer whose patent to land is cancelled by reason of his own fraud must restore the land and abide the judgment of Congress as to whether the consideration he paid shall be refunded.
The facts, which involve the validity of an entry of and patent for public lands under the homestead laws, are stated in the opinion.