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Bourdieu v. Pacific Western Oil Co., 299 U.S. 65 (1936)

Bourdieu v. Pacific Western Oil Co.

No. 2

Argued October 12, 1936

Decided November 9, 1936

299 U.S. 65


1. Where land withdrawn for oil and gas was entered and patented as a homestead pursuant to the Act of July 17, 1914, the oil and gas, together with the right to prospect for, mine, and remove them being reserved to the United States, the patentee was not entitled, under § 20 of the Leasing Act of February 25, 1920, to a preference right to prospect for those minerals or to an oil and gas lease following their discovery. P. 299 U. S. 69.

[Section 20 of the Leasing Act provides: "In the case of lands bona fide entered as agricultural, and not withdrawn or classified as mineral at the time of entry, . . . the entryman or patentee, or assigns, . . . if the entry has been patented with the mineral right reserved, shall be entitled to a preference right to a permit and to a lease, as herein provided, in case of discovery; . . ."]

2. An Executive Order declared that described public lands were withdrawn from settlement, location, sale or entry, and reserved for classification and in aid of legislation affecting the use and disposal of petroleum lands belonging to the United States. Held that whether or not a "classification" was thus effected, the lands were clearly "withdrawn lands" within the meaning of the Act of July 17, 1914, § 1, and the Leasing Act of February 25, 1920, § 20. Pp. 299 U. S. 68, 299 U. S. 70.

3. If the merits of the cause may be determined without prejudice to the rights of parties absent and beyond the jurisdiction of the court, it will be done, and a court of equity will strain hard to reach that result. P. 299 U. S. 70.

4. Where a bill entirely fails to state any cause of action in the plaintiff, the rights of absent parties are in no way threatened by it, and to enter upon a consideration of the question of their indispensability would be a waste of time. P. 299 U. S. 71.

5. That the United States would be an indispensable party defendant if the bill were good does not deprive the court of jurisdiction to dismiss on the merits a bill which states no cause of action against the private parties named as defendants. P. 299 U. S. 71.

80 F.2d 774 reversed.

Page 299 U. S. 66

Certiorari, 298 U.S. 647, to review a decision that the suit must be dismissed upon the ground that neither the District Court nor the court below had jurisdiction, in as much as the United States was thought to be an indispensable party. The suit was to declare a trust on certain land with respect to the right to prospect for and remove oil and gas. The District Court decided the case on the merits and dismissed the bill.

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