MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM, after making the foregoing statement of facts, delivered the opinion of the court.
We have set out in the foregoing statement of facts, at very great length, a large portion of the contents of the petition and answer in this case. It has been done for the purpose of showing by the record itself the questions of law arising therefrom. Upon a perusal of the record it appears that those questions are not merely formal ones nor are they so plain as not to require the careful judgment of any tribunal to which they may be referred for decision. Their solution was properly submitted
"The Secretary is the guardian of the people of the United States over the public lands. The obligations of his oath of office oblige him to see that the law is carried out, and that none of the public domain is wasted or is disposed of to a party not entitled to it. He represents the Government, which is a party in interest in every case involving the surveying and disposal of the public lands."
Congress has constituted the Land Department, under the supervision and control of the Secretary of the Interior, a special tribunal with judicial functions, to which is confided the execution of the laws which regulate the purchase, selling and care and disposition of the public lands.
Neither an injunction nor mandamus will lie against an officer of the Land Department to control him in discharging an official duty which requires the exercise of his judgment and discretion. Marquez v. Frisbie, 101 U.S. 473; Gaines v. Thompson, 7 Wall. 347; United States v. Black, 128 U.S. 40; United States v. Windom, 137 U.S. 636.
In Decatur v. Paulding, 14 Pet. 497, it was held that, in general, the official duties of the head of one of the executive departments, whether imposed by act of Congress or by resolution, are not mere ministerial duties. The head of an executive department of the Government in the administration of the various and important concerns of his office is continually required to exercise judgment and discretion. He must exercise his judgment in expounding the laws and resolutions of Congress under which he is from time to time required to act.
That the decision of the questions presented to the Secretary of the Interior was no merely formal or ministerial act is shown beyond the necessity of argument by a perusal of the foregoing statement of the issues presented by this record for the decision of the Secretary. (Whether he decided right or wrong, is not the question. Having jurisdiction to decide at all, he had
Neither the case of Roberts v. United States, 176 U.S. 221, nor that of American School of Magnetic Healing v. McAnnulty, 187 U.S. 94, decides anything opposing these views.
In the Roberts case it was simply decided that the duty of the Treasurer to pay the money in question in that case was ministerial in its nature and should have been performed by him on demand, and that, therefore, mandamus was the proper remedy for his failure to do it.
In the McAnnulty case it was held that the order of the Postmaster General to the postmaster in the city of Nevada, not to deliver the mail to the relator, was not a justification for such refusal, because the order was given without authority of law, and the postmaster could, notwithstanding such order, be compelled by mandamus to do his duty and deliver the mail. The case has no relevancy to the one in hand.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia is