Ex parte Sibbald (37 U.S. 488)
On an appeal from the superior court of East Florida by the United States, the decree of the court of East Florida was in part affirmed; the title of Sibbald, the appellee, to whom the grant of land had been made by the Spanish governor, before the cession of Florida, having been deemed valid by the Supreme Court. The decree of the Supreme Court directed the surveyor of public lands in East Florida to do all things enjoined on him by law, in relation to the lands in the surveys made for the grantee. The case was remanded to the superior court of East Florida, for the execution of this decree. The mandate of the Supreme Court for the execution of its decree was directed to the superior court of East Florida; and the surveyor of public lands would not make the surveys of the lands in the grant, according to the decision of the Court, the mandate not having been issued to him. A petition was presented to the Court by Sibbald, stating these facts, and asking the Court to order that a mandate be made out, directing the surveyor of public lands to do all required of him in relation to the surveys of the lands of the grantee, in conformity with the decree of the Court: and also to the superior court of East Florida, directing the court to cause further to be done therein what of right and according to law and justice, and in conformity to the decree of the Court, ought to be done. By the Court-Had it appeared, that a mandate more special than the one which was sent would have been necessary, it would have been ordered. The Court is bound to grant a mandate which will suit the case. The mandate which is annexed to the petition, was issued by the clerk, directed only if the court below, and no direction is given to the surveyor. It is, therefore, no execution of the final decree of the Supreme Court; and as it remains unexecuted, it is not too late to have it done; and requires no new order or decree in any way modifying that which has been rendered. The clerk was ordered to make out a certificate of the final decree of the Court before rendered; and also a mandate according to such final decree, the opinion of the Court in the case, and on the petition.
Appellate power is exercised over the proceedings of inferior courts, not on those on the appellate court. The Superior Court have no power to review their decisions, whether in a case at law or in equity. A final decree in chancery is as conclusive as a judgment at law. 1 Wheat. 355; 6 Wheat. 113, 116. Both are conclusive on the rights of the parties thereby adjudicated. No principle is better settled, or of more universal application, that no court can reverse or annul its own final decrees or judgments, for errors of fact or law, after the term in which they have been rendered, unless for clerical mistakes; 3 Wheat. 591; 3 Peters, 431: or to reinstate a cause dismissed by mistake, 12 Wheat. 10: from which it follows, that no change or modification can be made, which may substantially vary or affect it in any material thing. Bills of review, in cases of equity, and writs of error, coram vobis, at law; are exceptions
When the Supreme Court have executed their power in a case before them, and their final decree or judgment requires some further act to be done, it cannot issue an execution, but will send a special mandate to the court below to award it. Whatever was before the Court and is disposed of, is considered finally settled.
The inferior court is bound by the decree, as the law of the case; and must carry it into execution according to the mandate: they can examine it for no other purpose than execution; nor give any other or further relief; nor review it upon any matter decided on appeal, for error apparent; nor intermeddle with it further than to settle so much as has been remanded.
After a mandate, no rehearing will be granted: and on a subsequent appeal, nothing is brought up but the proceeding subsequent to the mandate.
If the special mandate directed by the 24th section of the judiciary act is not obeyed, then the general power given to 'all the courts of the United States to issue any writs which are necessary for the exercise of their respective jurisdictions, and agreeable to the principles and usages of law,' by the 14th section of the judiciary act, fairly arises; and a mandamus or other appropriate writ will go.
Mr. Clarke, for Mr. Sibbald, moved to reform the mandate issued by the Court, in this case, at January term, 1836, so as to conform the same to the opinion given by the Court at that time; or to issue a mandate to the surveyor general of the district of East Florida, to do those acts and things which he is commanded to do by the judgment of this Court, and which are enjoined on him by law. He cited 10 Peters, 313; 3 Story's Laws U.S. 1962; 9 Peters, 171; 10 Peters, 100.
The petition on which the motion was made, stated: That at January term, 1836, the Supreme Court of the United States, the case of the United States, appellants v. Charles F. Sibbald, appellee, was argued and determined in favor of said Charles F. Sibbald; and thereupon the following decree was given, to wit:--
'On consideration whereof, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed by this Court, that the decree of the said superior court, confirming the title of the petitioner to the ten thousand acres on Trout creek, be, and the same is hereby affirmed; and that the residue of the decree of the said superior court be, and the same is hereby reversed and annulled. And this Court, preceeding to render such decree as the said superior court ought to have rendered, doth order, adjudge, and decree, that the claim of the petitioner to the land embraced in the surveys of four thousand acres, and of two thousand acres, as returned with and contained in the record, is valid; and that the same be, and is hereby confirmed. And it is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed by this Court, that the surveyor of public lands in the eastern district of Florida, be, and he is hereby directed to do, and cause to be done, all the acts and things enjoined on him by law, in relation to the lands within said survey. And that the said cause be, and the same is hereby remanded to the said superior court, to cause further to be done therein, what of right, and according to law and justice, and in conformity to the opinion and decree of this Court, ought to be done.' See 10 Peters, 324.
The petitioner further represents, that he made application, by his solicitor, to said superior court of East Florida, to execute the mandate aforesaid; and which mandate he now exhibits in this Court, together with the opinion of the judge of said superior court, declining to execute said mandate, according to the requirements of your petitioners, for want of power or authority under said mandate. Your petitioner further represents, that by the opinion and judgment of this honourable Court, he considered two points as clearly settled, to wit: first, that he was entitled to the full complement of sixteen thousand acres, according to his original grant. Secondly: That he had an inherent privilege to direct or point out where other locations should be made, in case the survey or surveys made for him, was interfered with by older and good claims. Your petitioner further represents, that after said mandate was issued, and its execution demanded, it was clearly ascertained that there were divers interferences with older surveys, so as to prevent him from obtaining his full amount of lands; unless the deficiency were made up to him by other locations, to be pointed out. It would be seen by the opinion of the judge of said superior court, that he declined so to direct said surveys, according to his construction of said mandate. The petitioner further sets forth, that in the decree of said Court, the surveyor general of East Florida was ordered and directed to do certain acts, and make the surveys therein ordered; but that no such mandate has been directed to said surveyor. He therefore prays that said mandate may be issued, in such terms as in the opinion of the Court may be right and proper. Your petitioner therefore humbly prays your honourable Court to amend the error in said mandate as to conform to the judgment of the court; and that full and complete execution thereof may be had.
The petition was sworn to by Charles F. Sibbald, before a justice of the peace of the county of Washington, in the District of Columbia.
On the 7th of March, 1838, the counsel for the petitioner filed the following supplemental petition.
The supplemental petition of said Charles F. Sibbald, respectfully represents: That by reference to the judgment of the Court, as set forth in 10 Peters, 324, it was 'ordered, adjudged, and decreed, that the surveyor of public lands in the eastern district of Florida, be, and he is hereby directed to do, and cause to be done, all the acts and things enjoined on him by law, in relation to the lands within said survey.' And it was further ordered, adjudged, and decreed: 'That the said cause be, and the same is hereby remanded to the said superior court, to cause further to be done therein, what of right, and according to law and justice, and in conformity to the opinion and decree of this Court, ought to be done.' Your petitioner respectfully represents, that by the said judgment and decree, certain duties were imposed upon the surveyor of the public lands, as well as upon the said superior court; but that the mandate of this Court as made out by the clerk, is made to the judge of the superior court only, and none is directed to said surveyor; which your petitioner considers not to be an execution of, or in conformity with the judgment of this Court. The duties of a surveyor are prescribed by the 6th and 11th secs. of the act of congress of 1824, 3 Story, 1962. And by an act of 23d May, 1828, are made applicable to cases in Florida. 4 Story, 2126, sec. 6; and 6 Laws U.S. 68, sec. 6. The duties of the judge of the superior court are defined by the 1st sec. of said act of 1824, 3 Story, 1960. Your petitioner, therefore, respectfully prays that the mandate of the Court as rendered, be made out by the clerk in conformity to the judgment of the Court, and that it be so done as to direct the said surveyor, by a mandate to him, to do, or cause to be done, all the acts and things enjoined on him by law, in relation to the lands within said surveys. And also to direct the mandate to the superior court, to cause further to be done therein what of right, and according to law and justice, and in conformity to the opinion and decree of this Court, ought to be done.
BALDWIN, Justice, delivered the opinion of the Court.