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UNITED STATES V. THOMPSON, 98 U. S. 486 (1878)

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United States v. Thompson, 98 U.S. 486 (1878)

United States v. Thompson

98 U.S. 486


The United States, whether named in a state statute of limitations or not, is not bound thereby, and when it sues in one of its own courts, such a statute is not within the provisions of the Judiciary Act of 1789 which declare that the laws of the states, in trials at common law, shall be regarded as rules of decision in the courts of the United States in cases where they apply.

The United States sued, Dec. 6, 1875, Clark W. Thompson, and his sureties on his official bond, as superintendent of Indian affairs in Minnesota. The breach alleged was that he, as such officer, had, prior to March 30, 1865, received $10,562.27 of the moneys of the United States, which he had neglected and refused to account for, and had converted to his own use.

The defendants pleaded that the cause of action did not accrue within ten years next preceding the commencement of the suit. The United States demurred. The demurrer was overruled and judgment rendered for the defendants. The United States has brought the judgment here for review.

The statutes of Minnesota, c. 66, tit. 11, set. 6, provide that an action upon a contract, express or implied, unless it be founded upon some judgment or decree of a court, shall be barred if not commenced within six years after the cause of action accrues. 2 Minn.Stat. at Large 782.

The twelfth section of that title further provides that

"The limitations prescribed in this chapter for the commencement of actions shall apply to the same actions when brought in the name of the state, or in the name of any officer, or otherwise, for the benefit of the state, in the same manner as to actions brought by citizens."

Id., 783.

While a territory, the following statute was in force in Minnesota: "The limitations prescribed in this chapter apply to actions brought in the name of the United States, in the same manner as to actions by private parties." Rev.Stats. of 1851, c. 70, sec. 13, p. 331; Revision of 1858, p. 533, sec. 13.

This statute was first passed by the Territorial Legislature of Wisconsin, and was continued in force over that portion of it

Page 98 U. S. 487

which, in 1848, became the Territory of Minnesota. It was modified, several years after Minnesota became a state, to read as it now does. When Wisconsin became a state, its legislation underwent the same change.

Page 98 U. S. 488

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