Carr v. United States - 98 U.S. 433 (1878)
U.S. Supreme Court
Carr v. United States, 98 U.S. 433 (1878)
Carr v. United States
98 U.S. 433
1. Where the City of San Francisco, prior to the adoption of the Van Ness Ordinance, made a conveyance of certain lots within the city to the United States, and another party sets up a claim to them, under the ordinance, held that the conveyance barred the claim.
2. The United States filed a bill to quiet the title to certain lots in its possession in San Francisco; the defendant set up, by way of estoppel, judgments in ejectment rendered by the state courts at the suit of his grantor, against officers of the government then in possession as its agents, in whose behalf the district attorney, and additional counsel employed by the Secretary of the Treasury, appeared. The title was contested on the trial. Held that these facts constitute no estoppel against the government, although, in California, a judgment in ejectment is, in ordinary cases, an estoppel against the tenant in possession, and the landlord who had notice of the suit.
3. The United States cannot be estopped by proceedings against its tenants or agents, nor be sued without its consent, given by act of Congress.
4. Without such an act, no direct proceedings will lie at the suit of an individual against the United States or its property, and its officer cannot waive its privilege in this respect or lawfully consent that such a suit may be prosecuted so as to bind it.
5. The United States can only hold possession of its property by means of its officers or agents, and to allow them to be dispossessed by suit would enable parties always to compel it to litigate its rights. Therefore, when the pleadings or the proofs disclose that its possession is assailed, the jurisdiction of the court ought to cease.
6. The cases in which public property may be subjected to claims against it are those in which it is, by the act of the government, in juridical possession or has become so without violating the possession of the government and the latter seeks the aid of the court to establish or reclaim its rights therein. In such cases, it is equitable that the prior rights of others to the same property should be adjudicated and allowed.
The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.