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CARLSON V. CURTISS, 234 U. S. 103 (1914)

U.S. Supreme Court

Carlson v. Curtiss, 234 U.S. 103 (1914)

Carlson v. Curtiss

No. 307

Submitted March 17, 1914

Decided May 25, 1914

234 U.S. 103


Although plaintiff in error, after setting up a federal defense in the trial court, may not have based any exceptions upon the failure of that court to recognize it, if the appellate court did recognize, and by its decision necessarily overruled, that defense, this Court must deal with the federal question. North Carolina R. Co. v. Zachary, 232 U. S. 248.

While, in ordinary cases, this Court is bound by the findings of the state court of last resort, that court cannot, by omitting to pass upon basic questions of fact, deprive a litigant of the benefit of a federal right properly asserted, and it is the duty of this Court, in the absence of adequate findings, to examine the record in order to determine whether there is evidence which furnishes a basis for such a federal right. Southern Pacific Co. v. Schuyler, 227 U. S. 601.

After reviewing the congressional and state legislation in regard to the construction of the Lake Washington Waterway, held that Congress has refrained from authorizing any work on behalf of the federal government with reference to lowering the level of Lake Washington, and that all responsibility in that respect was assumed by the state and county, and, notwithstanding the contract was made by

Page 234 U. S. 104

an officer of the United States Army, it was not on behalf of the United States, but as representing the Washington.

Under the acts of Congress relative to the Lake Washington Waterway, no agency of the federal government could have arisen prior to the action involved in this case with respect to anything done in connection with the construction of the canal.

Orders given by an officer of the United States in connection with work not authorized by any act of Congress will not justify one violating the injunction of a state court as doing the act under the direction of officers of the United States in charge of government work.

The fact that title to right of way for a canal has vested in the United States, and, after completion, the Secretary of War is to take charge of the canal, does not make the United States responsible prior to completion where Congress has expressly declared that the canal will only be accepted after completion, and that the local authorities shall meanwhile assume all responsibility in connection therewith.

66 Wash. 639 affirmed.

The facts, which involve a review of the legislation, state and federal, in regard to the construction of the Lake Washington Waterway to Puget Sound, and the extent of the responsibility of the federal government therefor, are stated in the opinion.

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