Ross v. Stewart,
227 U.S. 530 (1913)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ross v. Stewart, 227 U.S. 530 (1913)

Ross v. Stewart

No. 140

Submitted January 23, 1913

Decided February 24, 1913

227 U.S. 530


Congress has power to invest a townsite commission with power to determine contests between rival claimants to lots in a townsite in Indian lands acquired and thrown open to settlement.

The acts providing for designation, surveying, and platting townsites in the Cherokee lands and disposing thereof plainly show the intent of Congress to commit the appraisal and disposal of the lots to the commission created by the acts, subject to supervision by the Secretary of the Interior.

The provisions of the acts do not contemplate the determination of conflicting possessory claims without inquiry into the merits.

All reasonable presumptions must be indulged in support of the action of administrative officers to whom the law entrusts proceedings determining priority of claims, and in the absence of material error of law, or of misrepresentation or fraud practiced on or by them, their action should stand approved by the court.

Page 227 U. S. 531

The presumption is that a contest has been commenced in time, otherwise it would not have been entertained.

Where the party to a contest and his attorney have been notified that no answer had been filed on his behalf, and they take no steps to correct this omission, and the case is decided adversely to him, the failure to file the answer furnishes no ground for avoiding the decision.

One failing to answer raises no issue entitling him to a hearing, and he cannot afterwards be heard to complain that he was denied a hearing.

A hearing and decision on a contest where the contestant files no answer after notice is not an ex parte proceeding, but an adversary proceeding.

Misrepresentation and fraud that will entitle a contestant to open a decision in a land contest must be such as prevented him from presenting his side of the controversy or the officer deciding it from considering it. It is not enough to charge falsity in pleadings or perjury of witnesses. Estes v. Timmins, 199 U. S. 391.

25 Okl. 611 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the title to land in a townsite of the Cherokee country and the power of the Townsite Commission to settle contests, are stated in the opinion.

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