1. In a proceeding to condemn land, the owner is entitled, as
part of his just compensation, to interest on the confirmed award
from the time when the government took actual possession. P.
255 U. S.
2. Assuming that the local state rate of interest is not
binding, there was no objection to adopting it (6 percent) in this
257 F. 397 affirmed.
The case is stated in the opinion. The judgment below affirmed a
judgment of the district court.
Page 255 U. S. 167
MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.
The United States brought an action January 18, 1915, in the
District Court of the United States for New Mexico to condemn lands
of the defendants in error for reclamation purposes. 32 Stat. 388.
Condemnation proceedings to acquire real estate for government uses
and public purposes under judicial process are regulated by the Act
of August 1, 1888, c. 728, 25 Stat. 357.
Section 2 of the act provides that the practice, pleadings,
forms, and modes of proceedings in causes arising under the
provisions of the act shall conform, as near as may be, to the
practice, pleadings, forms, and proceedings existing at the time in
like causes in the courts of record in the state within which such
circuit or district courts are held.
The petition averred the necessity of appropriating the lands in
question; that the Secretary of the Interior had determined to
acquire the defendants' real estate; that, at the date of the
completion of the work, lands of the defendants were flooded, and
thereby appropriated by the United States under the authority of
the acts of Congress; that the owners received no compensation;
that necessary funds were available to pay any damages which might
be awarded defendants. The petition prayed that the court appoint
commissioners to assess the damage which the owners had sustained
in consequence of the taking and appropriation of their lands, and
that, upon payment of the amount assessed, the lands be decreed to
be the property of the United States from the date of the
The award of the commissioners was filed February 3, 1917, and
an order was entered July 27, 1917, directing that the sums awarded
be deposited and distributed for the benefit of the owners.
Subsequently the owners made a motion for a supplemental order
Page 255 U. S. 168
United States to deposit sums equal to 6 percent interest on the
awards calculated from April 19, 1912, the time when the lands were
taken by flooding the same. The court made an order requiring the
deposit of the additional sum, to which order the United States
excepted, and prosecuted a writ of error from the Circuit Court of
Appeals of the Eighth Circuit, where the judgment of the district
court was affirmed. 257 F. 397.
It appears that the allowance of interest was from the time of
the actual taking of the land to the time deposit was made in
payment for the same.
The questions upon which the case was taken to the circuit court
of appeals appear from the assignments of error, and are: (1) that
the district court erred in awarding interest against the United
States from April 12, 1912, to date of deposit of the awards in
court for the reason that interest cannot properly be allowed in a
condemnation case against the United States for any period prior to
date of final judgment; (2) that the district court erred in
awarding interest against the United States from April 19, 1912, to
date of deposit of awards in court for the reason that interest
cannot properly be allowed in a condemnation case against the
United States for any period prior to date of the order of the
court placing the United States in possession of the lands
condemned; (3) that the district court erred in awarding interest
at the rate of 6 percent per annum against the United States from
April 19, 1912, to date of deposit of awards in court for the
reason that there is no authority of law for allowing interest at
said rate on judgments against the United States.
As we are reviewing the judgment of the circuit court of
appeals, the assignments of error in that court are the ones open
here, and it is evident from what we have said that the question in
substance comes to this: was there error in awarding the owners
interest on the value
Page 255 U. S. 169
of their lands appropriated from the time of actual taking of
the same until compensation was made?
It is unquestionably true that the United States, upon claims
made against it, cannot, in the absence of a statute to that end,
be subjected to the payment of interest. Angarica v.
Bayard, 127 U. S. 251
127 U. S. 260
United States v. North Carolina, 136 U.
, 136 U. S. 216
cited and approved in National Volunteer Home v. Parrish,
229 U. S. 494
229 U. S. 496
In the present case, the landowners did not sue upon a claim
against the government, as was the fact in United States v.
North American Transportation & Trading Co., 253 U.
. The government was seeking for purposes
authorized by statute to appropriate the lands, and it had actually
taken them, and had deprived the owners of all beneficial use
thereof from the date from which the allowance of interest ran.
Having taken the lands of the defendants in error, it was the
duty of the government to make just compensation as of the time
when the owners were deprived of their property. Monongahela
Nav. Co. v. United States, 148 U. S. 312
148 U. S.
In fixing the compensation, the district court, and the circuit
court of appeals in affirming the judgment, followed the New Mexico
statute fixing the rate of interest at 6 percent. This was in
conformity with a former ruling of the circuit court of appeals
applying the statutes of Minnesota to lands appropriated in that
state. United States v. Sargent,
162 F. 81.
The government urges that the Conformity Act of August 1, 1888,
does not require the United States government to be bound by the
rule of the state statute in the allowance of interest. This may be
true, but we agree with the courts below that the allowance of just
compensation by giving interest from the time of taking until
payment is a convenient and fair method of ascertaining the sum to
which the owner of the land is entitled. The
Page 255 U. S. 170
fact that the rule is in harmony with the policy of the state
where the lands are situated does not militate against, but makes
for, the justice and propriety of its adoption. Union states v.
We find no error in the judgment of the circuit court of
appeals, and the same is