Nassau Smelting & Refining Works v. United States - 266 U.S. 101 (1924)
U.S. Supreme Court
Nassau Smelting & Refining Works v. United States, 266 U.S. 101 (1924)
Nassau Smelting & Refining Works v. United States, Ltd.
Argued October 7, 1924
Decided November 17, 1924
266 U.S. 101
1. The question whether the district court, having jurisdiction under Jud.Code § 24 of an action brought by the United States, has statutory power to entertain counterclaims by the defendant against the government involves the jurisdiction of the court as a federal court. P. 266 U. S. 105.
2. A decision rejecting the counterclaims as not within jurisdiction conferred by federal statute is therefore reviewable here directly under Jud.Code § 238. Id.
3. The objection to a suit against the United States is fundamental, whether it be in the form of original action, set-off, or counterclaim, and jurisdiction in either case does not exist without specific congressional authority for it. P. 266 U. S. 106.
4. Under the Dent Act, c. 94, §§ 1 and 2, 40 Stat. 1272, allowing suits against the United States on certain kinds of agreements not executed in the manner prescribed by law, jurisdiction of such petitions was confined to the Court of Claims exclusively. Id.
6. A party in the district court who unsuccessfully sought adjudication under the Dent Act on agreements alleged not to have been executed in the manner required by law was thereby precluded, on writ of error here, from the position that they should have been adjudicated as contracts under Jud.Code § 24, par. 20. P. 266 U. S. 108.
Error to a judgment of the district court in an action brought by the United States to recover sums due for merchandise sold and delivered by it to the defendant. The amended answer admitted the allegations of the complaint and pleaded three separate and distinct set-offs or counterclaims each in an amount less than $10,000, for balances alleged to be due under agreements made during the late war and before November 12, 1918, under authority of the Secretary of War, for supplies used in the prosecution of the war. It was alleged that the Secretary had refused satisfactory adjustment, and an award by the district court was prayed, to be set off against the amount demanded by the United States, and, in case of an excess in favor of the defendant, judgment was prayed therefor. The trial court, on motion of the government, dismissed the set-offs or counterclaims and granted judgment for the United States on the pleadings for the full amount of its claim. Direct writ of error was prosecuted under Jud.Code § 238.