MR. JUSTICE CARDOZO delivered the opinion of the Court.
The action is trespass for the trial of title.
Plaintiffs, petitioners here, are citizens of Missouri; defendant, respondent here, is a citizen of Mexico. A tract of 337 acres in Texas, known as "El Guayuco Banco No. 319," on the left bank of the Rio Grande river, is the subject matter of the controversy. A jury having been waived, the trial was by a judge, who made his findings of fact and conclusions of law, and gave judgment for defendant. From this there was an appeal, its scope, however, narrowed by the manner of the trial and the form of the decision. Eastman Kodak Co. v. Gray, 292 U.S. 332; Harvey Co. v. Malley, 288 U.S. 415; Fleischmann Co. v. United States, 270 U.S. 349. A single question was open: were the conclusions of law supported by the facts as found, when supplemented by any other facts within the range of judicial notice? The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court. 83 F.2d 673. We granted certiorari to pass upon the contention, strongly pressed by the petitioners, that their rights had been illegally divested through the action of a foreign government.
The land in controversy was once part of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. In 1926 it was cut by avulsion from
In 1925, before the river had wrought the change, proceedings were begun for the division of a "latifundium," which embraced the land in controversy, and for its acquisition by the state. A petition in due form was submitted to the Governor of Chihuahua, and resulted in a decree, dated March 5, 1925, whereby the State of Chihuahua was proclaimed to be the owner. The District Judge has found that the plaintiffs and those from whom they trace their claim were notified of the proceedings and were given the opportunity to prove their title, but failed to do so. The judge has also found that the proceedings were regular and valid, that there was no requirement in the Constitution or laws of Mexico whereby payment must be made or secured at or before the time of expropriation, and that by force of the decree the plaintiffs were divested of any title that had been theirs. Following this expropriation, the defendant, who is now in possession, filed with the proper officials an application
Petitioners concede that the expropriation decree, if lawful and effective under the Constitution and laws of Mexico, must be recognized as lawful and effective under the laws of the United States, the sovereignty of Mexico at the time of that decree being exclusive of any other. Oetjen v. Central Leather Co., 246 U.S. 297; Ricaud v. American Metal Co., 246 U.S. 304; American Banana Co. v. United Fruit Co., 213 U.S. 347; Underhill v. Hernandez, 168 U.S. 250; Hewitt v. Speyer, 250 Fed. 367; Earn Line S.S. Co. v. Sutherland S.S. Co., 254 Fed. 126; Oliver American Trading Co. v. United States of Mexico, 5 F.2d 659; Compania M.Y.R.R., S.A. v. Bartlesville Zinc Co., 115 Tex. 21; 275 S.W. 388. The question is not here whether the proceeding was so conducted as to be a wrong to our nationals under the doctrines of international law, though valid under the law of the situs of the land. For wrongs of that order the remedy to be followed is along the channels of diplomacy. "A citizen of one nation wronged by the conduct of another nation, must seek redress through his own government." United States v. Diekelman, 92 U.S. 520, 524. Cf. Ware v. Hylton, 3 Dall. 199, 230; Young v. United States, 97 U.S. 39, 67, 68; Frelinghuysen v. Key, 110 U.S. 63, 71, 75. Indeed, a tribunal is in existence, the International Claims Commission, established by convention between the United States and Mexico, to which the plaintiffs are at liberty to submit and have long ago submitted a claim for reparation. Convention of September 8, 1923, proclaimed March 3, 1924; 43 Stat. 1730. What concerns us here and now is the efficacy of the decree under the land law of Mexico at the date of its proclamation to extinguish hostile claims of ownership and pass the title to another.
In what has been written, we have assumed in favor of the petitioners, but without intending to decide, that the land law of Mexico in the territory now part of Texas is a proper subject of judicial notice. The assumption helps
Heed must be given to the burden of proof, at least when other tests are lacking. In this action to establish ownership, petitioners must recover, if at all, on the strength of their own title. Judicial notice is unavailing to rid them of that burden. To say that a court will take judicial notice of a fact, whether it be an event or a custom or a law of some other government, is merely another way of saying that the usual forms of evidence will be dispensed with if knowledge of the fact can be otherwise acquired. Wigmore, Evidence, vol. 5, § 2567; Thayer, Preliminary Treatise on the Law of Evidence, pp. 277, 308. But the truth, of course, is that judicial notice and judicial knowledge are far from being one. The law is not so vain as to make pretense of their identity. To the contrary, a court that is left without knowledge of a fact after exploring to the full every channel of information must needs decide against the litigant who counts upon the fact as an essential of his claim. De non apparentibus et de non existentibus eadem est ratio.
We are not persuaded upon this record, supplemented by everything now brought to our attention, that the law of Mexico is other than by the concurrent judgments of the courts below it has been here adjudged to be. That
The judgment is
MR. JUSTICE STONE took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
"Private property shall not be expropriated except for reasons of public utility and by means of indemnification.
"The Nation shall have at all times the right to impose on private property such limitations as the public interest may demand as well as the right to regulate the development of natural resources, which are susceptible of appropriation, in order to conserve them and equitably to distribute the public wealth. For this purpose necessary measures shall be taken to divide large landed estates; to develop small landed holdings. .. . Private property acquired for the said purposes shall be considered as taken for public utility. . . .
"During the next constitutional term, the Congress and the State Legislatures shall enact laws, within their respective jurisdictions, for the purpose of carrying out the division of large landed estates, subject to the following conditions. . . .
"(e) The owners shall be bound to receive bonds of a special issue to guarantee the payment of the property expropriated. With this end in view, the Congress shall issue a law authorizing the States to issue bonds to meet their agrarian obligations."
Agrarian Law of the State of Chihuahua:
"Article third: Owners of larger extensions of lands than those prefixed in Article 1st, are under the obligations to divide into fractions their lands, and, to this effect a term of ninety days is granted them from the date on which this law goes into effect, so that they may select the extension of land they can keep; and another term of six months, from same date, is granted them for the formulation of the project for the division into fractions of the land in excess, which project is to be submitted to the Executive of the State for its approval attaching thereto corresponding plats of the land together with authentic title deeds."
"Article sixth: By the mere fact that the owners, do not present the plats to the Executive of the State in the form and terms as provided for in the article 3rd., it shall be understood that they refuse to divide the latifundium, into fractions, and the Executive of the State shall carry it out (the division into fractions of said latifundium) by means of expropriation in accordance to provision of subsection C, or the section VII of Article 27th, of the General Constitution."