U.S. EX REL. TAYLOR v. TAFT

No. 300.

203 U.S. 461 (1906)

UNITED STATES ex rel. TAYLOR v. TAFT, SECRETARY OF WAR.

Supreme Court of United States.

Decided December 10, 1906.


Attorney(s) appearing for the Case

Mr. Noble E. Dawson for plaintiff in error.

The Solicitor General for defendant in error.


MR. CHIEF JUSTICE FULLER, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

This case comes before us on a motion to dismiss the writ of error for want of jurisdiction. The right to such a writ is given in section 233 of the Code of the District of Columbia, 31 Stat. 1189, c. 854, 1227, which reads:

"Any final judgment or decree of the Court of Appeals may be reexamined and affirmed, reversed, or modified by the Supreme Court of the United States, upon writ of error or appeal, in all cases in which the matter in dispute, exclusive of costs, shall exceed the sum of five thousand dollars, in the same manner and under the same regulations as existed in cases of writs of error on judgments or appeals from decrees rendered in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia on February ninth, eighteen hundred and ninety-three, and also in cases, without regard to the sum or value of the matter in dispute, wherein is involved the validity of any patent or copyright, or in which is drawn in question the validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the United States."

If this writ of error can be maintained it is on the ground that the validity of an authority exercised under the United States was drawn in question.

The relator did not, however, question the authority of the President or his representatives to dismiss her, if the required formalities had been complied with. What she claimed was that there were certain rules and regulations of the civil service which were not observed in the matter of her dismissal, and that, therefore, such dismissal was illegal.

But this contention did not draw in question the validity of an authority exercised under the United States, but the construction and application of regulations of the exercise of such authority.

As Mr. Justice Gray said, in South Carolina v. Seymour, 153 U.S. 353, referring to an identical provision of the laws of the District prior to the code: "In order to come within this clause, the validity, and not the construction only, of a treaty or statute of the United States, or of an authority exercised under the United States, must be directly drawn in question."

And, prior to that case, we had disposed of the same question in United States v. Lynch, 137 U.S. 280. That was a petition for a writ of mandamus against the Fourth Auditor and the Second Comptroller of the Treasury, to compel them to audit the account of petitioner, who was an officer in the Navy. It was insisted that by the disallowance of petitioner's claim for mileage these officers exercised a discretion which they did not possess; that this was an invalid exercise of an authority under the United States; and that hence the validity of the authority was drawn in question. We held otherwise, and said:

"The validity of a statute is not drawn in question every time rights claimed under such statute are controverted, nor is the validity of an authority, every time an act done by such authority is disputed. . . .

"What the relator sought was an order coercing these officers to proceed in a particular way, and this order the Supreme Court of the District declined to grant. If we were to reverse that judgment upon the ground urged, it would not be for want of power in the Auditor to audit the account, and in the Comptroller to revise and pass upon it, but because those officers had disallowed what they ought to have allowed and erroneously construed what needed no construction. This would not in any degree involve the validity of their authority."

Steinmetz v. Allen, 192 U.S. 543, is not to the contrary, for there the validity of a rule constituting the authority of certain officers in the Patent Office was drawn in question.

Writ of error dismissed.


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