Berthold v. McDonald - 63 U.S. 334 (1859)
U.S. Supreme Court
Berthold v. McDonald, 63 U.S. 22 How. 334 334 (1859)
Berthold v. McDonald
63 U.S. (22 How.) 334
Where the decision of the supreme court of a state was against the validity of a title to land derived from a confirmation by the board of commissioners sitting under the act of March 3, 1807, this Court has jurisdiction, under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act, to review that decision.
Where the controversy was between two claimants to land, both of whom held equitable titles only under confirmation by the board of commissioners above mentioned, the court had a right to go behind the prima facie title resulting from the confirmation and to instruct the jury as to such facts as would tend to establish the superior equity of one of the claimants.
This was an action of ejectment brought by Berthold and others against the defendants in error to recover the possession of a tract of land near St. Louis containing eighty arpens, equivalent to sixty-eight acres. The action was originally brought in the St. Louis Land Court. Under the Spanish government, there was a common field near to the Town of St. Louis called the common field of the Prairie des Noyers. In this common field were two lots, owned respectively by two negresses, one of whom was named Florence Flore and the other named Jeannette or Jeannette Flore. Berthold and the other plaintiffs in error claimed under Florence Flore, and McDonald and Mary McRee under Jeannette. Both claims were confirmed in the manner stated in the opinion of the
Court. The court before which the case was originally tried left it to the jury to find which of these negresses was the original confirmee of the land in question, and the Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the correctness of this instruction. The verdict and judgment were for the defendants, and the plaintiffs below brought the case to this Court by a writ of error issued under the 25th section of the Judiciary Act.
The Supreme Court of Missouri was of opinion that the finding of the facts embodied in the instructions given by the court clearly establishes the superiority of the equity of the defendants, and that the plaintiffs seemed to rely solely on the dry technical point, that their confirmation was prior in point of time to that of the defendants -- a view of the case in which that court did not acquiesce.