Land v. Dollar,
330 U.S. 731 (1947)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731 (1947)

Land v. Dollar

No. 207

Argued February 11, 12, 1947

Decided April 7, 1947

330 U.S. 731


1. A steamship company being in financial straits, its stockholders (respondents here) entered into a contract with the Maritime Commission, pursuant to which they delivered their common stock, endorsed in blank, to the Commission, which released respondents from certain obligations, granted an operating subsidy and made a loan to the company, and obtained an additional loan for it from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. After the company had fully paid all its indebtedness to the United States, respondents demanded the return of the stock, claiming that it had been pledged as collateral for a debt which had been paid. The Commission refused, and offered the stock for sale. Respondents sued the individual members of the Commission (petitioners here) in a district court, praying that they be restrained from selling the stock, and

Page 330 U. S. 732

directed to return it to respondents. The district court, on its own motion, dismissed the complaint with prejudice, holding that the suit was against the United States.

Held: the district court had jurisdiction to determine its jurisdiction by proceeding to a decision on the merits. Pp. 330 U. S. 734-739.

(a) The allegations of the complaint, if proved, would establish that petitioners are unlawfully withholding respondents' property under the claim that it belongs to the United States, since that conclusion would follow if either of respondents' contentions were established: (1) that the Commission had no authority to purchase the stock or acquire it outright; or (2) that, even though such authority existed, the contract resulted not in an outright transfer, but in a pledge of the stock. Pp. 330 U. S. 735-736.

(b) If the allegations of the complaint are true, the stock never was the property of the United States, and is being wrongfully withheld by petitioners, who acted in excess of their authority as public officers and are answerable personally for their actions. United States v. Lee, 106 U. S. 196. Pp. 330 U. S. 736-739.

(c) While a judgment on such a claim would not be res judicata against the United States, because it cannot be made a party to the suit, the courts have jurisdiction to resolve the controversy between those who claim possession. Id. Pp. 330 U. S. 736-737.

2. Pursuant to Rule 25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Solicitor General moved to substitute as defendants the new members of the Commission for those who are no longer members. This Court added the new members as petitioners defendants, and dismissed as to a deceased member, but reserved decision as to the other former members.

Held: these questions not having been briefed or argued here, and there being a possibility that the present record may not present all the facts necessary for disposition of the motions, the order of substitution is vacated, in order that the district court, on remand of the case, may pass on the motion unembarrassed by any action here. P. 330 U. S. 739.

81 U.S.App.D.C. 28, 154 F.2d 307, affirmed.

A District Court dismissed a suit against the individual members of the Maritime Commission on the ground that it was a suit against the United States. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed. 81 U.S.App.D.C. 28, 154 F.2d 307. This Court granted certiorari. 329 U.S. 700. Affirmed, p. 330 U. S. 739.

Page 330 U. S. 733

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