Cross v. United States,
81 U.S. 479 (1871)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Cross v. United States, 81 U.S. 14 Wall. 479 479 (1871)

Cross v. United States

81 U.S. (14 Wall.) 479


The government had leased from A. a warehouse for ten years, the rent payable by installments. A. assigned his lease to B. and died. B. sued the government in the Court of Claims for certain installments of the rent which became due after the assignment. The Court of Claims dismissed the claim solely on the technical ground that the assignment of

Page 81 U. S. 480

the lease was not so drawn as to vest B. with a legal title to the accruing rents. Congress afterwards passed a joint resolution reciting that B. had "heretofore" filed his petition &c., on account of rents alleged to be "due," and that the court had dismissed the "said" petition on the sole ground of an alleged technical defect, and remanding "the said cause" to the Court of Claims for a further hearing upon the testimony already taken "and such further testimony as either party might take," and ordering that if, on such further hearing, it should appear that B. was in justice and equity entitled to the rents due on the lease, the court should render judgment in his favor, provided that no money should be paid him from the Treasury until after he had given indemnity against any demand which might be set up by the heirs of A. (the original lessor) "under or by virtue of the said lease or contract."

Held that B. could sue in the Court of Claims for all the rent that became due under the lease, and that the fact that, after the remand, he had filed his second petition for but the same rents for which he had filed his fist did not so exhaust the power of the court under the joint resolution as that he could not file a third one for additional rents, even though they were rents that were due when he filed his second petition and such as he might have included in a claim in it.

Daniel Saffarans, in 1851, according to the forms of law, leased to the United States for a term of ten years, at a certain monthly rent, a warehouse in San Francisco. Alexander Cross advanced the money to complete the building, and was compelled for his own protection to purchase the property and the contract of lease. The lease was assigned to him and the warehouse occupied by the government for a term of three years, when the Secretary of the Treasury of that day, availing himself of an apparent legal informality in the assignment of the lease, against the written protest of Cross, rescinded the contract.

On the 15th of November, 1856, Cross petitioned the Court of Claims for relief, but failed to obtain it on the ground that the assignment of the lease was defective and insufficient to vest in him a legal title to the accruing rents. This adverse decision, in conformity with the law at that time, was reported to Congress, and while the proceeding was pending there, Congress, on the 2d July, 1864, passed the following joint resolution for his relief:

"Whereas Alexander Cross heretofore filed his petition in the

Page 81 U. S. 481

Court of Claims of the United States praying relief on account of certain rents alleged to be due from the United States to him as assignee of one Daniel Saffarans by virtue of a certain alleged contract of lease between the said Saffarans (who is now deceased) and the United States, and whereas the said Court of Claims, on the 24th of January, 1859, rendered a decision adverse to the prayer of the said petition on the sole ground of an alleged technical defect in the assignment of said lease from the said Saffarans to the said petitioner, now therefore"

"Be it resolved &c., that the said cause be remanded to said Court of Claims for a further hearing upon the testimony heretofore filed therein and such further testimony as either party may take, and if, upon the further hearing of said cause, it shall appear that the said petitioner is the equitable owner of said lease, and in justice and equity entitled to the rents (if any) due thereon from the United States, the said court shall be authorized to render judgment therefor in his favor notwithstanding any technical defect in the assignment of said lease, provided that no money shall be paid out of the Treasury upon any judgment which may be rendered in favor of the petitioner in said cause until he shall have filed with the Secretary of the Treasury a bond, with ample security in such sum as will fully indemnify the United States against any demand which may be set up and established by or on behalf of the heirs or representatives of the said Daniel Saffarans, deceased, under or by virtue of said contract or lease."

Cross accordingly, after the passage of the resolution, by a supplemental petition, asked the Court of Claims to rehear the cause and give him judgment for the installments of rent claimed in his original petition, embracing the terms of time between the 14th day of August, 1853, and the 14th day of November, 1856. This was done. Two years afterwards, he brought another action to recover the installments of rent (amounting to $69,515) which were not included in the first suit.

The court below held that this second suit could not be maintained, because the power and authority conferred upon it by the joint resolution had been exhausted when it reheard the cause and rendered judgment. From that judgment it was that the present appeal was taken.

Page 81 U. S. 482

The only question in this case related, of course, to the proper construction of the already-quoted joint resolution of Congress of July 2, 1864.

Page 81 U. S. 483

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