Gauthier v. Morrison,
232 U.S. 452 (1914)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Gauthier v. Morrison, 232 U.S. 452 (1914)

Gauthier v. Morrison

No. 157

Argued December 19, 1913

Decided February 24, 1914

232 U.S. 452


Where one specially asserts in the state court a right predicated on the statutes of the United States to enter upon, and remain in possession of, public land, and that right is denied, this Court has jurisdiction to review the judgment of the state Court under § 237 Judicial Code.

The surveyor is not invested with authority to determine the character of land surveyed or left unsurveyed or to classify it as within or without the operation of particular laws.

Under the Homestead Law of the United States, unsurveyed public lands, if agricultural and unappropriated, are open to settlement by qualified entrymen, and this applies to land of that description left unsurveyed by a surveyor by erroneously marking it on the plat as included within the meander lines of a lake.

One who forces a qualified entryman who has acquired, in compliance with the Homestead Law, an inceptive homestead right on public land open to entry although erroneously shown on the plat as a lake, wrongfully invades the possessory right of the homesteader.

While the Land Department controls the surveying of the public lands and the courts have no power to revise a survey, the courts can determine whether the land was left unsurveyed and whether a right of possession exists under an inceptive claim.

Courts should not interfere with the Land Department in administrative affairs and before patent has issued, but it is not an interference

Page 232 U. S. 453

to restrain trespassers upon possessory rights or to restore possession to lawful claimants wrongfully dispossessed.

As Congress has not prescribed the forum or mode in which such wrongs may be restrained or redressed, the state courts have jurisdiction thereover, and should proceed to appropriately dispose of such questions and protect those claiming possession under the federal statute. Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U. S. 1.

62 Wash. 572 reversed.

The facts, which involve the jurisdiction of the state court over questions relating to the public lands and the jurisdiction of this Court to review the judgment, are stated in the opinion.

Page 232 U. S. 456

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