Gaines v. ThompsonAnnotate this Case
74 U.S. 347 (1868)
U.S. Supreme Court
Gaines v. Thompson, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 347 347 (1868)
Gaines v. Thompson
74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 347
The act of the Secretary of the Interior and Commissioner of the Land Office in canceling an entry for land is not a ministerial duty, but is a matter resting in the judgment and discretion of these officers as representing the Executive Department. Accordingly, this Court will not interfere by injunction more than by mandamus to control it.
The Secretary of the Interior having directed the Commissioner of the Land Office to cancel an entry under which Gaines and others claimed an equitable right to certain lands in Arkansas, these last brought their suit in the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, praying that the Secretary and Commissioner should be enjoined from making such cancellation. The defendants entered their appearance and Wilson, the Commissioner, filed a plea. The substance of this plea was that the matters set up in the bill were within the exclusive control of the executive department of the government, the Secretary and Commissioner representing the President, and that the court had no jurisdiction or authority to interfere with the exercise of this power by injunction. In point of fact, the validity of the entry in question depended upon the construction of certain acts of Congress upon the meaning of which different Secretaries of the Interior had been so far divided that it was thought best to take the opinion of the Attorney General upon their interpretation.
The court below, sustaining the plea, dismissed the bill, and the question on this appeal was the correctness of such action.