Alexander v. Roulet
80 U.S. 386 (1871)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Alexander v. Roulet, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 386 386 (1871)

Alexander v. Roulet

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 386

Syllabus

Prefects in California, however appointed or elected, had no power, after the conquest of the country by the United States, to make grants of the common or unappropriated lands of the pueblos within their jurisdiction. And titles derived from them cannot, unless assisted by legislation, be regarded as valid.

Alexander brought ejectment against Roulet and others in the court below to recover a piece of land in San Francisco, California. The title was thus:

The conquest of California was complete, as decided by this Court, [Footnote 1] July 7, 1846. On the 12th of January, 1850, Horace Hawes, at that time, by virtue of an appointment from the then military governor of the then Territory of California and an election by the people of the district, acting as the prefect of the district embracing the then pueblo, now City of San Francisco, granted to Edward Carpenter the premises in controversy. The title of Carpenter, thus acquired, became vested in the plaintiff. The premises were within the limits of the said pueblo, now City of San Francisco.

The court gave judgment for the defendant, holding, among other things, that although each prefect of California, while the same was part of the Mexican territory, had power to make grants of the common and unappropriated lands of the pueblos within their jurisdiction, yet that

Page 80 U. S. 387

from and after the conquest and acquisition of the country by the United States, they ceased to have such power, and consequently that the grant of Prefect Hawes was void.

On error here, among the questions raised were these:

1. Whether, while California was still part of the Mexican territory, prefects there had power to make grants of the common or unappropriated lands of pueblos within their jurisdiction.

2. Assuming that they had the power while the region was under Mexican rule, whether prefects elected by the people as well as appointed by military governors of the United States after the cession and conquest had the same power.

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