Open main menu


Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

80 U.S. 568

Twenty Per Cent Cases

APPEAL from the Court of Claims; the case being this:

A joint resolution of Congress of February 28th, 1867, [1] provided:

'That there shall be allowed and paid to the following described persons [whose salaries do not exceed $3500] now employed in the civil service of the United States, at Washington, as follows: To civil officers and temporary and all other clerks, messengers, and watchmen, including enlisted men detailed as such, to be computed upon the gross amount of the compensation received by them, and employees male and female, in the Executive Mansion, and in any of the following-named departments, or any bureau or division thereof, to wit: State, Treasury, War. Navy, Interior, Post Office, Attorney-General's, Agricultural, and including civil officers and temporary, and all other clerks and employees, male and female, in the offices of the Coast Survey, Naval Observatory, Navy Yard, Arsenal, Paymaster-General, including the division of referred claims, Commissary-General of Prisoners, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Quartermaster's, Capitol and Treasury Extension, City Post Office, and Commissioner of Public Buildings; to the photographer of the Treasury Department, to the superintendent of meters, and to lamplighters under the Commissioner of Public Buildings, an additional compensation of 20 per centum on their respective salaries as fixed by law, or, where no salary is fixed by law, upon their pay, respectively, for one year from and after the 30th day of June, 1866.' I. FITZPATRICK'S AND SEVEN OTHER CASES.

This joint resolution being in force, several persons, named respectively Fitzpatrick, Hall, Bohn, Lytle, Holbrook, La Rieu, Richards, and Newman, and whose salaries were all less than $3500, filed their petitions; each setting forth facts, which, if true, brought him within the act, and each claiming the 20 per cent. additional. By the finding of the Court of Claims it appeared that Fitzpatrick was an employ e in the office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, as keeper of the western gate of the Capitol; that Hall was an employ e in the office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, in that part of the Capitol called the crypt; that Bohn was an employ e in the office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, as a laborer on the public grounds; that Lytle was an employ e in the office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, as watchman in the east grounds of the Capitol; that Holbrook was an employ e in the office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, as watchman at the stables; that La Rieu was an employ e in the same office, as watchman in the Smithsonian grounds; that Richards was an employ e in the same office, as watchman on the Capitol dome; and Newman was an employ e in the same office, as captain of the Capitol police. II. MILLER'S CASE.

About the same time one Miller filed a petition in the Court of Claims, alleging that he had been as clerk and employ e in the office of the Capitol Extension, assigned to duty as foreman of construction, receiving a salary of $1800; that he was in the civil service of the United States at Washington, and that he was thus entitled to an addition of 20 per cent. on his salary, under the joint resolution above quoted, and asking judgment against the United States therefor. The United States opposed the demand.

The court found as fact:

1. That the claimant was appointed foreman of carpenters by the Secretary of the Interior Department, March 1st, 1866, at a salary of $1800 per annum, and was in the service of the United States, in connection with Capitol Extension, at Washington, D. C., continuously from June 30th, 1866, to June 30th, 1867, inclusive, at the said salary.

2. That he was paid monthly, as in the case of other salaried officers; that he received materials for the work upon the Capitol building; made up daily reports; had charge of workmen, and performed such duties as were assigned him by the architect of the Capitol Extension, and was paid out of the said fund as the architect of the Capitol Extension, clerks, and others connected with said work, viz., the appropriation for the Capitol Extension.

No other facts than those above mentioned were found by the court. The counsel of the United States, however, after adverting to the fact that the findings contradicted an averment of the petitioner of a matter within his own knowledge, they finding that he was appointed foreman of carpenters March 1st, 1866, at a salary of $1800 per annum, and the counsel stating-by way of reconciling the discrepancy-that prior to March 1st, 1866, the claimant was employed in the same capacity as thereafterwards, but at a compensation of only $5 per day of actual employment, that is, exclusive of Sundays, or about $1500 per annum; and that the Secretary of the Interior, on March 1st, 1866, wrote the following letter:'DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

'WASHINGTON, D. C. March 2d, 1866.

'SIR: You are hereby authorized, from and after the 1st of the present month, to pay George Miller, timekeeper, &c., on the Capitol Extension, at the rate of $150 per month, for the time actually employed, until further orders.

'I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

'JAMES HARLAN,

'Secretary.'

'DR. WM. S. MARSH,

Disbursing Agent, Capitol Extension.'

III. MANNING'S CASE.

Near about the same time one Manning filed a petition with a purpose similar to that with which the others filed theirs. The court found that the claimant was employed as watchman or guard at the jail in Washington, for one year, at a salary of $1200 per year, paid to him monthly by the disbursing officer of the Department of the Interior. His pay was fixed at this rate by the Secretary of the Interior, under act of Congress which place the jail under the supervision of the Department of the Interior.

The Court of Claims gave a decree for the claimants in all of the cases, and the United States appealed in all.

Mr. C. H. Hill, Assistant Attorney-General, for the United States, (Messrs. L. P. Poland and N. P. Chipman, contra,) argued:

I. IN REGARD TO FITZPARICK AND THE SEVEN OTHER CLAIMANTS,

That none of these claimants were 'employed in the civil service at Washington,' which it was indispensable that any one claiming under the joint resolution should be. No officer, clerk, messenger, watchman, enlisted man, or employ e being entitled unless within that special class; a class which not only excluded the military and naval branches, but which, in reference to the civil branch, comprises only those persons who fill some office or hold some appointment established by law.

That the findings of the Court of Claims that the persons were 'employees,' were not findings of fact, but findings of law, and therefore not findings proper for the court to have made as the basis of its conclusions; that being findings of law they were re-examinable in this court; that thus re-examined it was plain that the word employees being found in the phrase, 'all other clerks and employees,' was to be regarded as meaning employees whose duties were clerical; moreover that the 'employees' meant to be favored were 'employees' in the office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, &c.; that is to say, employees having appointments as officers in the edifice appropriated to the commissioner, &c.

II. IN REGARD TO MILLER,

That the claimant was not in in civil service, nor even an appointee of the Secretary of the Interior; that the letter of March 2d, 1866, was not an appointment but a mere order for an increase of pay; that the letter showed that the claimant was in the service of the United States, 'in connection with the Capitol Extension,' and not an 'employ e in the Capitol Extension.' Of course he was not an employ e in any other of the departments.

III. IN REGARD TO MANNING,

That he did not show that he was an employ e in any one of the departments, or in any bureau or division thereof, or in any office named in the resolution; his appointment was not authorized by statute, nor is his compensation prescribed by an appropriation act; that neither his employment nor his compensation being known to any act of Congress, he was not to be regarded as an employ e in the civil service at Washington.

Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court in all the cases, giving it as follows:

NotesEdit

^1  14 Stat. at Large, 569.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).