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Western Pacific R. Co. v. United States, 108 U.S. 510 (1883)

Western Pacific Railroad Company v. United States

Decided May 7, 1883

108 U.S. 510


In a suit brought by a District Attorney of the United States to set aside a patent conveying public lands, objection was taken in this Court that it does not sufficiently appear that the suit was brought under authority from the Attorney General. Held that, the objection not having been taken below, the fact of such authority could be inquired into and shown here.

On the evidence, it appeared that the lands in question were mineral lands, and were known to be such by the applicant for the patent, and agent for the railroad company at the time of the application. The patent was set aside.

The bill was filed in the court below in February, 1887. Hearing was had on the evidence, and in June, 1878, a decree was rendered setting aside the letter patent as "issued by mistake and without authority of law." The bill did not disclose any authority from the Attorney General to bring the suit, nor was such authority shown in the court below, nor was any objection taken for the want of the averment or the proof of such authority. The controversy below, upon the facts, was in regard to the character of the lands, whether mineral or not, and, upon the law, in regard to the effect of the acts of the agents of the United States upon the patentee's title. The defendants below appealed from the decree.

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