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Russell Motor Car Co. v. United States, 261 U.S. 514 (1923)

Russell Motor Car Company v. United States

Nos. 485, 480, 740

Argued March 6, 1923

Decided April 9, 1923

261 U.S. 514


1. The Act of June 15, 1917, c. 29, 40 Stat. 182, empowered the President, within the limits of amounts appropriated, "to modify, suspend, cancel, or requisition any existing or future contract for the building, production, or purchase of ships or material," and to exercise the authority "through such agency or agencies as he shall determine from time to time," "material" being defined as including stores, supplies, and equipment for ships and everything required for or in connection with the production thereof.

Page 261 U. S. 515

Held: (a) The word "material" included anti-aircraft gun mounts for the Navy. P. 261 U. S. 518.

(b) The power "to modify, suspend, cancel, or requisition" any contract, etc., extends to the cancellation of the government's own contracts. P. 261 U. S. 519.

(c) An executive order delegating power under this clause in sweeping terms to the Secretary of the Navy should be construed broadly, and included the power to cancel government contracts. P. 261 U. S. 523.

(d) An order of the Secretary cancelling a contract need not refer to the statute. Id.

(e) The just compensation to which a party is entitled upon cancellation of his contract under the statute does not include anticipated profits. Id.

2. The maxim noscitur a sociis is used only to solve ambiguity. Verbs in an enumeration whose meaning, when they are separately applied to their common object, is plain should be interpreted distributively. P. 261 U. S. 519.

3. Where the meaning of a statute may be ascertained without extrinsic aid, debates in Congress will not be considered. P. 261 U. S. 522.

57 Ct.Clms. 464, 244, and 626 affirmed.

Appeals from three judgments of the Court of Claims fixing just compensation for the cancellation of claimants' contracts with the government. In the first and third cases, the contracts for the manufacture of anti-aircraft gun carriages and brass shell cases were entered into through the Navy Department, and were cancelled by the Secretary of the Navy by authority delegated under the Act of June 15, 1917. In the second case (No. 480), the contract was with the Emergency Fleet Corporation, for the construction of barges, and was cancelled through that agency under like authority.

Page 261 U. S. 516

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