United States v. Gillis
95 U.S. 407 (1877)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Gillis, 95 U.S. 407 (1877)

United States v. Gillis

95 U.S. 407

Syllabus

1. The act entitled "An Act to prevent frauds upon the Treasury of the United States," approved Feb. 20, 1853, 10 Stat. 170, embraces every claim against the government, however arising, of whatever nature, and wherever and whenever presented.

2. So far from giving new potency to assignments of rights of action, and from changing the rule of the common law touching such rights, that act denies any effect to powers of attorney, orders, transfers, and assignments which before were good in equity, and which a debtor, when they were brought to his notice, was bound to regard.

3. The Act of Feb. 24, 1866, 10 Stat. 612, establishing the Court of Claims is not an enabling act, nor does it expressly or by necessary implication repeal any of the provisions of the Act of Feb. 26, 1853, or make claims assignable which, before its enactment, were incapable of assignment.

4. Congress has given a legislative construction of the act of 1853 by including and reenacting it in sec. 3477 of the Revised Statutes.

5. The Court therefore, upon consideration of the above statutes, holds: 1. that claims against the United States cannot be assigned so as to enable the assignee to bring suit in his own name in the Court of Claims; 2. that in cases arising under the Act of March 3, 1863, 12 Stat. 820, the ownership claimed and required to be proved is that which existed at the time when the property in question was captured, and that the assignee of the claim for the proceeds of such property is not entitled to sue for them in said court.

This suit was brought June 11, 1867, in the court below by Thomas H. Gillis in his own name to recover the proceeds of one hundred and eight bales of cotton seized under the Abandoned and Captured Property Act of March 12, 1863, as the property of John H. Ryan, at Charleston, S.C., in March, 1865, by the military forces of the United States.

The Court of Claims found the following facts:

1. In March, 1865, one John H. Ryan, of Charleston, S.C., was the owner of one hundred and three bales of upland cotton and five bales of sea island cotton which were during that month seized at said Charleston by military officers of the United States, turned over to the agents of the Treasury Department, transported to New York, and there sold, and the net proceeds thereof covered into the United States Treasury, amounting to the sum of $130.33 per bale for the upland cotton and $231.61 per bale for the sea island cotton.

Page 95 U. S. 408

2. Sometime in October or November, 1866, said Ryan transferred the legal title to his claim against the United States for the proceeds of said cotton so covered into the Treasury to Thomas H. Gillis, of New York, and assented to the bringing this action thereon in the name of said Gillis.

3. After the institution of this action, said Thomas H. died, and Catherine I. Gillis was duly appointed administratrix of his estate by the Surrogate Court of the County and State of New York on the sixteenth day of July, 1868, and has since been admitted by the court to prosecute this suit as such administratrix.

4. The transfer of the claim, as set forth in the second finding, was made through one Van Ness at New York under a power of attorney from said Ryan, and contract, the full terms of which have not been proved. But it appears that said Ryan (since deceased) assented to and affirmed said transfer. Subsequently a controversy arose between the present claimant and the administrator of said Ryan as to an equitable interest set up by said administrator in some portion of the money which might be recovered. Since this action was instituted, a compromise has been made between said claimant and said Ryan's administrator by which it is agreed that a certain part (but how much it does not appear) of the amount recovered shall be paid over to said administrator by the claimant's attorneys of record.

The court thereupon found as a conclusion of law that the claimant was entitled to recover $13,423.99, as the proceeds of one hundred and three bales of upland cotton, and $1,158.05, as the proceeds of five bales of sea island cotton, in all, the sum of $14,582.04, and rendered judgment accordingly. The United States brought the case here.

Page 95 U. S. 411

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