SNYDER V. BUCK, 340 U. S. 15 (1950)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Snyder v. Buck, 340 U.S. 15 (1950)

Snyder v. Buck

No. 64

Argued October 18, 1950

Decided November 13, 1950

340 U.S. 15


1. In a suit in a Federal District Court against respondent in his official capacity as Paymaster General of the Navy, petitioner obtained a judgment directing respondent to pay her the death gratuity provided by 34 U.S.C. § 943 for the widow of a member of the naval service. After respondent had retired and his successor had taken office, an appeal was taken in respondent's name. Six months having elapsed since respondent's retirement without any effort's being made to have respondent's successor in office substituted as a party, the Court of Appeals ruled that the action had abated, and it vacated the judgment and remanded the cause to the District Court with directions to dismiss the complaint.

Held: this was a proper application of § 11(a) of the Judiciary Act of 1925, 43 Stat. 936. Pp. 340 U. S. 16-22.

(a) Section 11(a) of the Judiciary Act of 1925 made survival of the action dependent on a timely substitution. P. 340 U. S. 19.

(b) This was a declared policy of Congress, not to be altered by an agreement of the parties or by some theory of estoppel. P. 340 U. S. 19.

(c) The application of § 11(a) did not turn on whether the judgment rendered prior to the death or resignation of the official was for or against the plaintiff. P. 340 U. S. 19.

(d) Section 11(a) is not limited to actions brought against officials for remedies which could not be obtained in direct suits against the United States. P. 340 U. S. 20.

(e) An action is nonetheless pending within the meaning of § 11(a) though an appeal is being sought -- even when, as in this case, the appeal was taken after the retirement of the official, and therefore without authority. Pp. 340 U. S. 20-21.

(f) Since the suit had abated in the District Court, there was no way of substituting the successor on remand of the present case. Therefore, vacating the judgment of the District Court was the proper procedure for the Court of Appeals. P. 340 U. S. 21.

2. Since the absence of a necessary party and the statutory barrier to substitution "involve jurisdiction," 28 U.S.C. § 2105 did not prohibit this Court's review of the ruling below on abatement. Pp. 340 U. S. 21-22.

85 U.S.App.D.C. 428, 179 F.2d 466, affirmed. chanrobles.com-red

Page 340 U. S. 16

No substitution of parties having been made under § 11(a) of the Judiciary Act of 1925, 43 Stat. 936, within six months after his retirement, the Court of Appeals vacated a judgment against respondent in his official capacity of Paymaster General of the Navy. 85 U.S.App.D.C. 428, 179 F.2d 466. This Court granted certiorari. 339 U.S. 951. Affirmed, p. 340 U. S. 22.