U.S. Supreme Court
Reagan v. United States, 182 U.S. 419 (1901)
Reagan v. United States
Argued April 15, 1901
Decided May 27, 1901
182 U.S. 419
In 1896, commissioners appointed by judges of the United States Court in the Indian Territory were inferior officers, not holding their offices for life, or by any fixed tenure, but subject to removal by the appointing power.
Commissioners appointed by that court prior to the Act of March 1, 1895, were entitled to reappointment under that act, but were removable at pleasure unless at that date, or at the date of removal, causes for removal were prescribed by law.
As no causes for removal had been prescribed by law at the date of the removal of claimant in 1896, he was subject to removal by the judge of his district, and the action of that judge in removing him was not open to review in an action for salary.
Appellant filed his petition in the Court of Claims October 13, 1897, and an amended petition October 27, 1899, seeking to recover salary as United States commissioner in the Indian Territory at the rate of $1,500 per annum, from February 1, 1896, to September 30, 1899, aggregating $5,375.
The findings of fact and conclusion of law were as follows:
"I. The claimant was, on the 25th day of April, 1893, appointed by the United States Court for the Indian Territory United States commissioner within said territory, under the provisions of section 39 of an Act of Congress approved May 2, 1890, chapter 182 (1st Supp.Rev.Stat. 737), and upon the 1st day of March, 1895, the claimant was one of the present commissioners, then holding office under an existing appointment. On April 17, 1895, the following order was entered of record in the United States Court in the Indian Territory, Southern District:"
" It appearing from the records of this Court that the said William R. Reagan was a duly appointed, qualified, and acting Commissioner for the United States Court for the Third Judicial Division of the Indian Territory, located at Chickasha, on
the 1st day of March, 1895, it is hereby ordered that, in accordance with the Act of Congress approved March 1, 1895, the said William R. Reagan be, and he is hereby, continued in office, and the bond hereinbefore recited be, and the same is, in all things approved and confirmed."
"C. B. Kilgore, Judge"
"II. He continuously performed the duties and received the salary of said office until the 31st day of January in the year 1896, when the following letter was entered upon the records of the United States Court in the Indian Territory, in the Southern District, by the Hon. Constantine B. Kilgore, judge of said court:"
"Ardmore, Indian Territory, January 31st, 1896"
" Hon. William R. Reagan, United States Commissioner for the Fourth Commissioner's District in and for the Southern District of the Indian Territory."
" Sir: I feel it my duty to declare the office of commissioner in that district vacant, and to notify you that you are no longer United States commissioner for that district, and your successor will be named at once."
" There are many reasons which I could assign for my action in this behalf, but I will only suggest one now -- that is, your age and the infirmities incident thereto render you, in my judgment, in many respects unfit for the office."
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant,"
"C. B. Kilgore"
"Judge U.S. Dist. Court, S. Dist."
"The letter was not sent to the claimant or served upon him. No other statement of cause was made. The claimant was given no notice of any charge against him. No hearing was allowed the claimant and no opportunity to submit proof in his defense."
"III. The claimant protested that said letter was insufficient to effect his removal, and duly served such protest upon the Hon. Constantine B. Kilgore, judge of said court."
"IV. On February 10, 1896, one John R. Williams, who had
been designated by said judge as United States commissioner in the claimant's place, came to claimant's office with two armed deputy marshals, and, presenting his order of appointment, demanded possession of the dockets, books, and papers belonging to claimant's office as United States commissioner."
"V. The order of appointment of said Williams is as follows:"
"Ardmore, Indian Territory, January 31st, 1896."
" John R. Williams, a resident of Ryan, Southern District of Indian Territory, is hereby appointed United States commissioner in and for the Fourth District of the Southern District of the Indian Territory."
" Said appointment to take effect at once."
" It is further ordered that said commissioner shall reside at Ryan, and that he shall hold court at Ryan and at the Town of Duncan in said district until further ordered, the time to be divided so as to dispose of the business at both points, which time shall be determined upon hereafter."
"C. B. Kilgore,"
"Judge U.S. Ct., So. Dist."
"VI. The claimant protested and refused to recognize said Williams as his successor in said office, excepting so far as he was compelled thereto by the exercise of superior force on the part of the deputy marshals aforesaid and said Williams. Thereupon the claimant and said Williams joined in the following instrument of writing:"
" Duncan, Indian Territory"
" Southern District"
" This instrument of writing witnesseth:"
" That whereas C. B. Kilgore, judge of the United States Court for the Southern District of the Indian Territory, on the 31st day of January, A.D. 1896, made, and caused to be entered upon the docket of his court at Ardmore, Indian Territory, an order declaring my office of United States commissioner for the Ryan division of said district vacant, and at the same time appointing John R. Williams to be my successor in said office,
and the said Reagan having appealed to the courts of the United States from said order, on the ground that said order is contrary to the law:"
" Now therefore it is agreed by and between the parties hereto that said Reagan will turn over and surrender the dockets, books, and papers belonging to said office under protest, and that said Williams receives the same with the understanding that said Reagan yields no rights by so doing that he would otherwise have."
" Witness our hands this 10th day of February, A.D. 1896."
"Jno. R. Williams"
"Wm. R. Reagan"
"VII. The claimant received a salary of $1,500 per annum up to the 3d day of February, 1896, but since that date has not been paid said salary or any part thereof."
"VIII. Claimant took no other or further action to assert his claim to said office, or to obtain a reversal of the action of Judge Kilgore until the institution of this proceeding."
"IX. From the 3d day of February, 1896, until the 7th day of October, 1897, John R. Williams, who was appointed by Judge Kilgore to said office in claimant's stead, exercised said office and was paid the salary thereof. On said date, one Horace M. Wolverton was appointed as the successor of said John R. Williams by Hon. Hosea Townsend, United States Judge for said district, and since that time has exercised said office and has been paid the salary thereof."
"X. From the 3d day of February, 1896, until the commencement of this action, the disbursing clerk of the Department of Justice paid to the persons who succeeded claimant to said office the salary of said office, in the absence of any notice on the part of claimant that he claimed to be lawfully entitled to said office and the salary thereof, or any claim or demand on the part of claimant for the payment to him of such salary for said period of time or any part thereof."
"Conclusion of Law"
"Upon the foregoing findings of fact, the court decide, as a conclusion of law, that the petition be dismissed. "
Judgment was thereupon rendered dismissing the petition, and the case was brought to this Court by appeal. The opinion below is reported 35 Ct.Cl. 90.