Pico v. United States
69 U.S. 279 (1864)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pico v. United States, 69 U.S. 2 Wall. 279 279 (1864)

Pico v. United States

69 U.S. (2 Wall.) 279

Syllabus

When a claim to land in California is asserted as derived through the Mexican Land System, the absence from the archives of the country of evidence supporting the alleged grant creates a presumption against the validity of such a grant so strong that it can be overcome, if at all, only by the clearest proof of its genuineness, accompanied by open and continued possession of the premises.

Appeal by Andres Pico from the decree of the District Court of the United States for the Northern District of California, the case being as follows:

Pico claimed a tract of land in California to the extent of eleven square leagues under a grant alleged to have been issued to him on the 6th of June, 1846, by Pio Pico, then Mexican Governor of the department. In 1852 he presented a petition for the confirmation of his claim to the Board of Commissioners to ascertain and settle land titles on California,

Page 69 U. S. 280

created under the Act of March 3d, 1851. The board rejected the claim, but on appeal to the district court the decree of rejection was reversed and the claim was adjudged to be valid and was confirmed. The United States appealed from this decree of confirmation to the Supreme Court, and by that court the decree was reversed and the cause remanded for further evidence. * Further evidence having been taken, the case was again brought before the district court for hearing, and by that court a decree was entered, on the 4th of June, 1862, adjudging the claim to be invalid, and rejecting it. From this decree the present appeal to the Supreme Court is taken.

In support of his claim before the district court, the claimant produced three documents -- the first purporting to be a grant from the Mexican Governor, Pio Pico, dated June 6, 1846, for the land, the second purporting to be a certificate of the approval of the grant by the Departmental Assembly, on the 15th of June, 1846, and the third purporting to be a communication from the deputy secretary of the assembly to the secretary of state informing him that the grant, together with two other grants, had been approved by the assembly on the 15th of July, 1846.

Of the first two documents there was no trace in the archives, except what is furnished by the third document. There was no evidence that any of the proceedings required by the Mexican Colonization Regulations, preliminary to the issue of a grant, were taken, either by the claimant or the governor. The journals of the departmental assembly showed that no proceedings were had on the 15th of June, 1846, relating to the grant in question and that there was no session of that body on the 15th of July, 1846. The third document was found among the archives, but was on a separate sheet, unconnected with any other papers. There was no evidence in the case that the grantee ever took possession of the land under the alleged grant or that such

Page 69 U. S. 281

grant was known, or its existence suspected, until long after the United States had occupied the country.

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