Mullett's Administratrix v. United States,
150 U.S. 566 (1893)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mullett's Administratrix v. United States, 150 U.S. 566 (1893)

Mullett's Administratrix v. United States

No. 121

Argued November 28, 1893

Decided December 11, 1893

150 U.S. 566


The Supervising Architect of the Treasury is not entitled to extra compensation, above his salary, for planning and supervising the erection of a department building in Washington occupied by other departments of the government.

In this case, the delay in bringing suit leads to the conclusion that the architect recognized the work for which he sued as within the scope of his regular duties.

On May 4, 1889, Alfred B. Mullett filed his petition in the Court of Claims, seeking to recover for services as an architect rendered in the year 1871 in preparing designs for the building now occupied by the State, War, and Navy Departments, and working drawings for the construction of the same. Other claims were stated in the petition, but they have since been

Page 150 U. S. 567

abandoned by the petitioner. On June 2, 1890, the Court of Claims made its findings of fact, as follows:

"I. The commission authorized by the resolution of December 14, 1869, and of which plaintiff, then Supervising Architect of the Treasury, was a member, decided to erect a building for the Department of State upon McPherson Square, in the City of Washington. It was suggested that plaintiff prepare plans for the building proposed, but he declined, and tentative plans were prepared by another. These plans were not satisfactory. Plaintiff thereupon, at the suggestion of the Assistant Secretary of State, prepared tentative plans for the building then intended to be erected upon McPherson Square for the Department of State only."

"Later it was decided to erect at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventeenth Street, Washington, a building to accommodate the Departments of State, War, and Navy, and the McPherson Square site for the Department of State was abandoned. This course was authorized by the Act of March 3, 1871, and prior to the passage of this act, plaintiff was requested by the Secretary of State to extend his former design so it would cover the larger building then contemplated. This he did."

"II. After the passage of the Act of March 3, 1871, 16 Stat. 494, c. 113, the commissioners therein named selected the plaintiff as architect to design and prepare the drawings for the building contemplated by that act. Plaintiff designed these drawings, superintended their preparation, made and suggested changes therein, and the drawings so designed by him were accepted and approved by the commissioners designated in the said act, and the building now occupied by the Departments of State, of War, and of the Navy was built in a substantial accordance with the drawings. Plaintiff superintended the construction of the southern wing of this building, now occupied by the Department of State, and the east wing, from the beginning until January 1, 1875, at which date the expenditures upon the building amounted to $3,876,096.47. The total cost of the entire building was $10,030,028.99."

"III. Plaintiff, during all the time covered by the service

Page 150 U. S. 568

hereinbefore described, was Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department. The labor performed by him as to the new building was done by permission of the Secretary of the Treasury, without sacrifice of time properly to be devoted to the duties of the Supervising Architect and without promise of compensation except as hereinafter shown. Plaintiff was not at personal expense or outlay in the preparation of plans or otherwise in connection with the new building, but he gave to it his individual genius and individual labor, and this without injury to the interests committed to his charge as Supervising Architect."

"IV. Plaintiff resigned his office as Supervising Architect of the Treasury. This resignation took effect January 1, 1875. He was requested by the Secretary of State to remain in charge of the new building at a salary of $5,000 a year, giving to it his entire time and attention. This he declined."

"V. Prior to the passage of the act authorizing the construction of the building, plaintiff was told at a meeting where were present the Secretary of State and representatives of the Committees on Public Buildings and Grounds of the Senate and House of Representatives that if he would make the plans, they had no doubt that his services would be taken into consideration by Congress in making the necessary appropriations for the erection of the building, and that if his plans were accepted, and he should superintend the construction of the building, that he would be properly compensated."

"VI. The building for the Departments of State, War, and of the Navy was begun June 21, 1871, and finished in 1888. It does not appear that, prior to the commencement of this action, plaintiff made a demand for compensation as architect or superintendent of said building, except in an application to Congress."

The opinion of the court was delivered by Davis, J., and is reported in 25 Ct.Cl. 409. From such judgment the petitioner appealed to this Court. After taking the appeal, he died, and the action was revived in the name of his administratrix.

Page 150 U. S. 569

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