Kohl v. United States
91 U.S. 367 (1875)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kohl v. United States, 91 U.S. 367 (1875)

Kohl v. United States

91 U.S. 367

Syllabus

1. The right of eminent domain exists in the government of the United States, and may be exercised by it within the states, so far as is necessary to the enjoyment of the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution.

2. Where Congress by one act authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase in the City of Cincinnati a suitable site for a building for the accommodation of the United States courts and for other public purposes, and by

a subsequent act made an appropriation "for the purchase at private sale, or by condemnation of such site," power was conferred upon him to acquire, in his discretion, the requisite ground by the exercise of the national right of eminent domain, and the proper circuit court of the United States had, under the general grant of jurisdiction made by the Act of 1789, jurisdiction of the proceedings brought by the United States to secure the condemnation of the ground.

3. Where proceedings for the condemnation of land are brought in the courts of Ohio, the statute of that state treats all the owners of a parcel of ground as one party, and gives to them collectively a trial separate from the trial of the issues between the government and the owners of other parcels; but each owner of an estate or interest in each parcel is not entitled to a separate trial.

Page 91 U. S. 368

This was a proceeding instituted by the United States to appropriate a parcel of land in the City of Cincinnati as a site for a post office and other public uses.

The plaintiffs in error owned a perpetual leasehold estate in a portion of the property sought to be appropriated. They moved to dismiss the proceeding on the ground of want of jurisdiction, which motion was overruled. They then demanded a separate trial of the value of their estate in the property, which demand the court also overruled. To these rulings of the court the plaintiffs in error here excepted. Judgment was rendered in favor of the United States.

There are three acts of Congress which have reference to the acquisition of a site for a post office in Cincinnati. The first, approved March 2, 1872, 17 Stat. 39, is as follows:

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled that the Secretary of the Treasury be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to purchase a central and suitable site in the City of Cincinnati, Ohio, for the erection of a building for the accommodation of the United States courts, custom house, United States depository, post office, internal revenue and pension offices, at a cost not exceeding three hundred thousand dollars, provided that no money which may hereafter be appropriated for this purpose shall be used or expended in the purchase of said site until a valid title thereto shall be vested in the United States and until the State of Ohio shall cede its jurisdiction over the same, and shall duly release and relinquish to the United States the right to tax or in any way assess said site and the property of the United States that may be thereon during the time that the United States shall be or remain the owner thereof."

In the Appropriation Act of June 10, 1872, 17 Stat. 352, a further provision was made as follows:

"To commence the erection of a building at Cincinnati, Ohio, for the accommodation of the United States courts, custom house, United States depository, post office, internal revenue and pension offices, and for the purchase, at private sale or by condemnation, of ground for a site therefor -- the entire cost of completion of which

Page 91 U. S. 369

building is hereby limited to two million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars (inclusive of the cost of the site of the same) -- seven hundred thousand dollars, and the Act of March 12, 1872, authorizing the purchase of a site therefor, is hereby so amended as to limit the cost of the site to a sum not exceeding five hundred thousand dollars."

And in the subsequent Appropriation Act of March 3, 1873, 17 Stat. 523, a further provision was inserted as follows:

"For purchase of site for the building for custom house and post office at Cincinnati, Ohio, seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

Page 91 U. S. 371

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