United States v. D'Auterieve/Dissent Curtis
Mr. Justice CURTIS.
Justices McLean, Wayne, Campbell, and myself, do not understand the opinion which has been delivered by Mr. Justice Nelson as intended to express the judgment of this court upon the validity of the complete French grant, alleged by the petition to have been made by The Western Company to Paris Duvernay in 1717, or upon the effect of the alleged confirmation of such alleged complete French title, or any part thereof, by the Spanish Governors, O'Reilly and Unzaga. The trial of such a title not being within the jurisdiction of this court upon this petition, according to the repeated decisions of this court, and the plain terms of the act of May 26, 1824, under which we derive our authority, it seems equally clear, that the questions whether there is any sufficient evidence that such a grant was made, or whether it could be located, or whether it embraced the premises in question, or whether it had been in part or in whole confirmed; and how extensive such confirmation, if made, was, are questions not judicially before us. For these questions belong exclusively to the trial of that legal title.
In our judgment, this embraces the whole case. It exhausts every allegation in the petition, which makes no claim to any incipient or imperfect French or Spanish title. It alleges only a complete French grant, and a confirmation to D'Auterieve, who was then in possession under it, of part of the land.
Now, the first section of the act of 1824, provides that a person, claiming lands by virtue of a French or Spanish grant, concession, warrant, or order of survey, which might have been perfected into a complete title, may present a petition to the District Court, setting forth, fully, plainly, and substantially, the nature of his claim to the lands, particularly stating the date of the grant, &c., under which he claims; and then it continues: 'and the said court is hereby authorized and required to hold and exercise jurisdiction of every petition presented in conformity with this act, and to hear and determine the same.' Unless, therefore, the petition is presented in conformity with this act, the special and limited jurisdiction which the act confers does not exist. The title shown by this petition being a complete title, derived from the Western Company, and confirmed by the Spanish authorities, and the petitioner not having shown, fully, plainly, and substantially, or even by the most obscure suggestion, any other title, we cannot perceive how this court has any jurisdiction under the act of 1824. We add, however, that if, as in the case of Davenport's Heirs, at the present term, the petition did duly aver facts, constituting in point of law an imperfect title, we should not consider the petition defective, though it might state an erroneous legal conclusion from those facts, and call the title a perfect one. That is not this case, as may be seen by recurring to the petition.
Our opinion is, that this petition should be dismissed for want of jurisdiction, without prejudice to any legal title of the petitioners, and that no opinion should be expressed by this court upon any question of fact or law arising upon the evidence.