Winton v. Amos,
255 U.S. 373 (1921)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Winton v. Amos, 255 U.S. 373 (1921)

Winton v. Amos

Nos. 12

Argued January 14, 15, 1919

Restored to docket for reargument January 5, 1920

Reargued April 21, 22, 1920

Decided March 7, 1921

255 U.S. 373


1. The acts authorizing these suits against Mississippi Choctaws (April 26, 1906, c. 1876, § 9, 34 Stat. 140; May 29, 1908, c. 21, 27, 35 Stat. 457) contemplate not an action in personam to establish

Page 255 U. S. 374

personal liability against individual Indians, or a group of them, but an equitable class suit against those who, by successfully asserting citizenship in the Choctaw Nation, acquired allotments out of the tribal land and participation in funds held in trust by the United States, to impose an equitable charge upon their lands and interests so acquired for a reasonable and proportionate contribution towards the value of the services rendered and expenses incurred by the claimants in securing such lands and interests for the class. Pp. 255 U. S. 375, 255 U. S. 391, 255 U. S. 397.

2. The acts, in treating the Indians affected as a class, and in providing for their representation by the Governor of the Choctaw Nation for the purpose of receiving notice of the suit and by the Attorney General of the United States for the purpose of appearing and defending it, and in omitting to make the United States a party, are within the constitutional authority of Congress over tribal Indians and their property, and do not deprive the Indians of their property in violation of the Fifth Amendment, although they are citizens. P. 255 U. S. 392.

3. For proper professional services rendered and expenses incurred in successfully promoting legislation to rescue substantial property interests of a class of beneficiaries under a trust of a public nature, it is equitable to impose a charge for reimbursement and compensation upon the interests so secured, the same as if a like result had been reached through litigation in the courts. P. 255 U. S. 392.

4. Where such services, enuring to the benefit of a class, are performed under express contracts with some of its members, the party performing them may exact compensation from such individuals directly, under the express contracts if they are valid or under implied contracts if they are not (in which case, they would have contribution from their co-beneficiaries), or, in avoidance of circuity of action, he may waive his rights under the contracts and proceed against all the beneficiaries directly. P. 255 U. S. 393.

5. To sustain such an equitable charge, the services rendered must have been substantially instrumental in producing a result beneficial to the class upon whose interests it is to be imposed. P. 255 U. S. 394.

6. Where the acts performed by certain claimants in behalf of a class of Mississippi Choctaws were in part such as to assist in procuring the legislative and administrative measures which secured their property interests, and in part apparently of the opposite tendency, so that the effect of the service as a whole was in doubt, held that the Court of Claims should not have limited its findings to what the claimants did, but should have found specifically on whether

Page 255 U. S. 375

the service was of benefit, and, if so, what compensation was equitably and justly due on the principle of quantum meruit. P. 255 U. S. 395.

7. When requests under Rules 90-95 for additional findings are not filed within the prescribed 60 days after judgment, the Court of Claims has discretion to reject them upon that ground, but when it rejects them for other reasons evincing a misconception of the case and of the significance of the requested findings, it will not be assumed that they would have been rejected upon the ground of delay if the misconception had not existed. P. 255 U. S. 395.

No. 6 reversed.

Nos. 7-12 affirmed.

The cases are stated in the opinion. The decisions of the Court of Claims are reported in 51 Ct.Clms. 283; 52 id. 90.

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