Litchfield v. The Register and ReceiverAnnotate this Case
76 U.S. 575 (1869)
U.S. Supreme Court
Litchfield v. The Register and Receiver, 76 U.S. 9 Wall. 575 575 (1869)
Litchfield v. The Register and Receiver
76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 575
1. The rule established in Gaines v. Thompson, 7 Wall. 347, that the courts will not interfere by mandamus or injunction with the exercise by the executive officers of duties requiring judgment or discretion, affirmed and applied to registers and receivers of land offices.
2. The fact that a plaintiff asserts himself to be the owner of the tract of land, which these officers are treating as public lands, does not take the
case out of that rule, where it is the duty of these officers to determine upon all the facts before them, whether the land is open to preemption or sale.
3. In such cases, if the court could entertain jurisdiction against the land offices, the persons asserting the right of preemption would be necessary parties to the suit.
Litchfield field his bill in the court below against Richards, Register, and Pomeroy, Receiver of the United States Land Office at Fort Dodge, Iowa, asking an injunction to restrain them from entertaining and acting upon applications made to them to prove preemptions to certain lands which lay within the land district for which they were respectively register and receiver. The bill, which was very full, recited the various acts of Congress and of the state of Iowa, by which the complainant maintained that a large list of tracts of land, supposed to belong to an original grant to the Territory of Iowa for the purpose of improving the navigation of the Des Moines River, became his property. The history of that grant has been recently the subject of report in these volumes in several cases, and it is unnecessary to repeat it. It is sufficient to say that the bill giving that version of the matter which was favorable to the title of the complainant, averred that he was the legal owner of the lands; that they were not public lands, and were in no manner subject to sale or preemption by the government, or its officers. The defendant demurred, and the bill was dismissed for want of equitable jurisdiction. Whereupon the complainant appealed.