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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Equitable Trust Co., 283 U.S. 738 (1931)

United States v. Equitable Trust Co.

No. 21

Argued December 1, 2, 1930

Decided June 1, 1931

283 U.S. 738


1. It is a general rule in courts of equity that a trust fund which has been recovered or preserved through their intervention may be charged with the costs and expenses, including reasonable attorney's fees, incurred in that behalf, and this rule is deemed specially applicable where the fund belongs to an infant or incompetent who is represented in the litigation by a next friend. P. 283 U. S. 744.

2. A full-blood Creek Indian who was insane and under an Oklahoma guardian, owned an allotment which under the Act of May 27, 1908, was subject to restrictions against "alienation, contract to sell, power of attorney, or any other encumbrance." It was leased by the guardian, with the approval of the probate court and the Secretary of the Interior, for oil and gas extraction. A large fund, accumulated from the lease royalties, came into the hands of the Secretary, in trust for the Indian, and was subsequently distributed upon a written request in the name of the Indian and bearing his thumb-mark, but which he was incapable of understanding and which was procured by fraud. Unable to induce remedial action by the Secretary and the Attorney General, the guardian, as next friend of the Indian brought a suit in which the Department of Justice at length took part and which resulted in recovery of a large part of the fund.


(1) That the next friend and attorneys for the Indian were entitled to reasonable allowances for services and expenses, even if the statutory restrictions upon the land applied to the fund. P. 283 U. S. 745. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 283 U. S. 739

(2) The United States, by it intervention and participation, impliedly consented to such allowances. P. 283 U. S. 745.

(3) The allowance to attorneys should not extend to services in other litigation, and should be adjusted to the hazard of the case, the nature and extent of the services, the amount recovered, and the special protection due to a mental incompetent. P. 283 U. S. 746.

34 F.2d 916 modified and affirmed.

Certiorari, 280 U.S. 550, to review a decree which sustained, with reductions, allowances made by the district court for services and expenses in a suit to recover a fund belonging to an Indian. See also 21 F.2d 325; 26 id. 350; 278 U.S. 626.

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