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ROUGHTON v. KNIGHT.

decided: February 20, 1911.

ROUGHTON
v.
KNIGHT.



IN ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA.

Author: Lurton

[ 219 U.S. Page 543]

 MR. JUSTICE LURTON delivered the opinion of the court.

The question in this case is whether the complainant below, and appellant here, has acquired a vested right to an exchange of a one hundred and sixty-acre tract of land owned by him and situated inside the exterior boundary of a forest-reserve, for a tract of public land of similar area, by reason of acts done in compliance with the terms of that provision of the Forest Reserve Act of June 4, 1897, providing for such exchanges. The Supreme Court of California sustained a demurrer and dismissed his

[ 219 U.S. Page 544]

     bill. 103 Pac. Rep. 844. A writ of error to that court brings the case here for review as to the Federal question.

That the complainant came within the terms of the act of June 4, 1897, there can be no doubt. He owned one hundred and sixty acres of patented land within the exterior lines of a public forest reservation, and was entitled to relinquish title to the United States and receive a patent for one hundred and sixty acres of public land outside the reservation, to be selected by himself. The provision of that act conferring this privilege is set out in the margin, being found in the act of June 4, 1897, c. 2, 30 Stat. 36.*fn1

The contention is that he lost his right because he neglected to make a selection and thereby complete any exchange until the act extending the privilege was repealed by the act of March 3, 1905, c. 1495, 33 Stat. 1264. The repealing act is set out in the margin.*fn2

[ 219 U.S. Page 545]

     Before the repeal of the act the appellant, in pursuance of the provisions thereof and of the regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior, did these things:

He executed a deed of relinquishment to the United States and caused the same to be duly recorded in June, 1899. He deposited this deed, together with an abstract of title, in the Land Office of the United States for the proper district at Visalia, California. This was in June, 1899.It is then averred that the deed and the abstract were forwarded to the Commissioner of the Land Office at Washington, and reached there about June 25, 1899, and were there retained until January 3, 1905, when they were returned to the Visalia land office for delivery to the complainant, and were delivered to him January 9, 1905, and that no objection as to either form or sufficiency of the relinquishment was made by the Commissioner or any other official of the United States. Thus the matter stood from January 9, 1905, until March 3, when the repealing act was passed.

On March 14, 1905, eleven days after the repealing act, the appellant undertook to make a selection, and for that purpose filed his application to select the one hundred and sixty acres subsequently patented to the defendant, with notice of the prior selection so made by complainant. Upon these facts he demanded that a patent should issue to him for the land so selected, but the Commissioner and the Secretary of the Interior denied power to issue any such patent, the law having been repealed before the selection was made.

The issue is a sharp one. The complainant insists that when he made and delivered his deed, with an abstract showing a clear ...


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