United States v. Babbit - 66 U.S. 55 (1861)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Babbit, 66 U.S. 1 Black 55 55 (1861)
United States v. Babbit
66 U.S. (1 Black) 55
1. The register of a land office is not entitled to retain a larger sum than three thousand dollars as commissions for locating military bounty land warrants under the Acts of February 11, 1847, September 25, 1850, March 22, 1852, and March 3, 1855.
2. All fees received by a register, whether for locating military bounty land warrants or for other services, in excess of the maximum fixed by law must be paid into the Treasury.
3. The second proviso in the third section of the Act of March 22, 1852, which declares "that no register or receiver shall receive for his services during any year a greater compensation than the maximum now allowed by law" is not limited in its effect to the section where it is found, but is an independent proposition which applies alike to all officers of this class.
The United States brought debt against Lysander W. Babbit
and his sureties on his official bond as register of the land office at Kanesville, Iowa. Babbit was commissioned on the 6th of April, 1853, and held his office until the 20th of October, 1856, to which time his accounts were adjusted by the accounting officers of the Treasury, showing a balance against him of $9,816 24. This amount consisted of fees received by him for locating military bounty land warrants under the Acts of February 11, 1847, September 25, 1850, March 22, 1852, and March 3, 1855. The accounts credited him with commissions to the full amount of $3,000, and the balance of the fees received by him being in excess of the maximum allowed by law, the United States brought this suit to recover them. The defense was that the fees rightfully belonged to the officer himself, and he was not bound to account for them to the United States. The question of law raised in the cause was whether a register of the land office who has received fees for locating military bounty lands can retain them whatever may be their amount, or whether he is bound to account for them and pay over to the Treasury all he receives beyond three thousand dollars of such fees, as of others. The district court decided the point in favor of the defendants, and the United States brought the case into the Supreme Court on writ of error.