Dominguez v. Guyer v. Banning,
167 U.S. 723 (1897)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Dominguez v. Guyer v. Banning, 167 U.S. 723 (1897)

Dominguez v. Guyer v. Banning

No. 24

Argued January 8, 1897

Decided May 24, 1897

167 U.S. 723


The Board of Commissioners appointed under the Act of Congress of March 3, 1801, 9 Stat. 631, c. 41, confirmed to Manuel Dominguez and others, claimants under a Mexican grant, a certain tract of land known as the Rancho San Pedro. Upon appeal to the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of California, the action of the Board was approved, and it was adjudged, February 10, 1807, that the claimants had a valid title to that rancho, the decree giving the boundaries to the lands so confirmed. In execution of the decree, the lands were surveyed under the direction of the United States surveyor general of California. The survey upon its face excepted, reserved and excluded from the claim surveyed the inner bay of San Pedro. Within the exterior lines of that bay is Mormon Island, containing at mean low tide 18.88 acres, and at mean high tide, about one acre. The survey having been filed in the Land Department, a patent was issued February 19, 1858, to the claimants under the decree of confirmation, conveying lands that were outside the exterior lines of the inner bay of San Pedro, and containing eight square leagues more or less. The patent followed the survey, anti did not include that bay or any lands within its exterior lines. The present action was brought by various parties, asserting title under the decree of confirmation, to recover possession of the above 18.88 acres. The defendant claimed under a patent issued to him by the United States in 1881. No application was ever made to the district court of the United States to correct any error in the decree of 1837, nor was any step taken to have a new survey or to obtain a patent conveying all the lands apparently embraced by that decree.


(1) If the surveyor general misinterpreted the decree of confirmation, and made a survey which excluded from the surveyed claim any of the lands within the lines given by that decree, it was within the power of the district court to have its decree properly executed, and to that end to order a new survey.

(2) While it may be true in some cases that an action to recover possession of lands confirmed to a claimant under the act of 1851 can be maintained before a patent is issued, a patent issued avowedly in execution of a decree passed under that act was conclusive between the United States and the claimants, and until cancelled, such patent alone determines, in an action to recover possession, the location of the lands that were confirmed by the decree.

(3) The patent in question having been accepted by the patentees, and

Page 167 U. S. 724

being uncancelled, the plaintiffs in this action, claiming under the patentees, cannot recover lands not embraced by it, even if such lands are embraced by the lines established by the decree of confirmation, the conclusive presumption being that the patent, being uncancelled, correctly locates the lands covered by the confirmed grant.

The court further said it was unnecessary to decide whether the defendant was entitled to a judgment on his cross-complaint or whether the lands under the navigable waters of the inner bay of San Pedro, and those here in controversy or any part thereof, passed to the State of California upon its admission into the Union or after the issuing of the patent of 1858.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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