Singleton v. Touchard,
66 U.S. 342 (1861)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Singleton v. Touchard, 66 U.S. 1 Black 342 342 (1861)

Singleton v. Touchard

66 U.S. (1 Black) 342


1. Where a plaintiff in ejectment claimed under a Mexican title, confirmed and patented according to the act of 1851, the defendant cannot oppose to it another Mexican title not finally confirmed, but pending in the Supreme Court on appeal by the Attorney General.

2. In such case the plaintiff has a legal title, while the defendant's title if it be a title is but inchoate and equitable, and will not avail him in an action at law.

Gustave Touchard, a subject of the French Emperor, brought ejectment in the circuit court for the Northern District of California, against James Singleton and seventeen others, for a tract of land situate in the County of Santa Clara, California, being a portion of what is known as Yerba Buena rancho. All the defendants answered, averring the title of the land claimed by the plaintiff to be in the public authorities of the city of San Jose, and all, except two of them, admitted that they were

Page 66 U. S. 343

in possession of certain portions of the land for which they severally took defense under conveyances or licenses from either the Mayor and Council, or the commissioners of the funded debt, of San Jose city. The other two defendants did not aver any conveyance to them from the city of officers. They asserted the title to be in the city, but denied that they themselves were in possession.

On the trial, the plaintiff produced a patent from the United States to Antonio Chaboya, reciting his claim under a grant from the Mexican government, and the final confirmation of it pursuant to the Act of Congress of March 3, 1851. It was admitted that this patent covered the land in suit. The plaintiff showed the conveyances through which Chaboya's title was transmitted to himself, and proved the possession of the two defendants by whom that fact was denied in their answers.

On the part of the defendants, evidence was given to show that the Mayor and Common Council of the City of San Jose had petitioned the Board of Land commissioners for confirmation of their claim to the commons, or pasture lands, of the pueblo of San Jose. It appeared, that this claim had been confirmed by the commissioners for four leagues, being one league in each direction from the center of the plaza, and for the remainder of the land the claim was rejected. On appeal to the district court the title of the city to all the land it claimed was confirmed. The Attorney General took an appeal to the Supreme Court. It was proved, that the boundaries assigned to the pueblo lands by the decree of the district court included all the lands in dispute between the present parties. After this, the defendants proceeded to show the documentary any other evidence, upon which the pueblo of San Jose claimed its title from the Mexican nation.

The judge of the circuit court instructed the jury that the patent conferred a legal title upon Chaboya and his alienee, the plaintiff. As to the defendants' title, it could not he said be set up against the patent, even though the evidence were such as to prove the Mexican grant to the pueblo a good one, and entitled to confirmation, under the act of Congress. The confirmation of the city's claim by the land commission and

Page 66 U. S. 344

the district court, with an appeal to the Supreme Court still pending, and without a survey or patent, might be good in equity, but could not be made available to the party in this action.

The jury accordingly found a verdict for the plaintiff, upon which the court gave judgment, and the defendants sued out this writ of error.

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