Santa Fe Pacific R. Co. v. Lane - 244 U.S. 492 (1917)
U.S. Supreme Court
Santa Fe Pacific R. Co. v. Lane, 244 U.S. 492 (1917)
Santa Fe Pacific Railroad Company v. Lane
Argued April 18, 1917
Decided June 11, 1917
244 U.S. 492
In view of the power reserved to add to, alter, amend or repeal the act granting land to the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad Company (July 27, 1866, c. 278, 14 Stat. 292), and of the grantee's failure to comply with the conditions as to construction, Congress, without violating any vested right and consistently with the Fifth Amendment, could lay upon the grantee the cost of surveying the lands granted and require payment thereof as a condition to the issuance of patents, as was in fact done, in respect of said company, by the general provision in the Act of July 31, 1876, c. 246, 19 Stat. 121.
The construction placed by the Land Department upon the Act of 1876, supra, to the effect that it required the grantee to pay only a share of the cost of surveying and sectionizing a township proportional to the area of its granted lands (odd sections) within that township, was not only reasonable, but, being undoubtedly known to Congress, must be deemed to have been approved by and, in effect, incorporated in, the Act of June 25, 1910, c. 406, 36 Stat. 834, which makes no change in the grantee's obligation beyond advancing the time of payment.
This view is corroborated by the Senate and House committee reports preceding and explaining the Act of 1910.
As a demand by the Secretary of the Interior based on the Act of 1910, supra, that the railroad grantee make a deposit to cover the entire cost of surveying a township, in which only part of the lands belongs to such grantee, is clearly unwarranted by those acts, its effectuation may be enjoined if the other elements requisite to such relief are present.
The claim evidenced by such a demand casts a serious cloud on the large areas of other unsurveyed land in the railroad grants, and therein threatens the grantee with serious embarrassment, and the provision in the Act of 1910 for forfeiture if the demand be not complied with, to be followed by proceedings by the Attorney General, is also to be considered as a reason for equitable relief.
The grantee is not required, in order to test the validity of such a demand, to adopt the hazardous and embarrassing course of ignoring it and defending such suit as the Attorney General may institute under the Act of 1910.
The Secretary of the Interior having demanded under the Act of 1910, supra, an amount equal to the entire cost of surveying certain townships of which the railroad grantee could not lay claim to more than half, a tender of one-half the amount demanded was adequate.
43 App.D.C. 497 reversed.
The case is stated in the opinion.