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POPE v. UNITED STATES

decided: November 6, 1944.

POPE
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Rutledge; Jackson took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Stone

[ 323 U.S. Page 3]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question for decision is whether Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in enacting the Special Act of February 27, 1942, 56 Stat. 1122,*fn1 by which, "notwithstanding

[ 323 U.S. Page 4]

     any prior determination" or "any statute of limitations," it purported to confer jurisdiction on the Court of Claims to "hear and determine," and directed it to "render judgment" upon, certain claims of petitioner against the Government in conformity to directions given in the Act.

Petitioner brought the present proceeding in the Court of Claims to recover upon his claims as specified and sanctioned by the Special Act. The court dismissed the proceeding on the ground that the Act was unconstitutional. 100 Ct. Cls. 375. It thought that in requiring the court to make a mathematical calculation of the amount of petitioner's claims upon the basis of data enumerated in the Act and to give judgment for the amount so ascertained, notwithstanding the rejection of those claims in an earlier suit in the Court of Claims, the Act was an unconstitutional encroachment by Congress upon the judicial function of the court. Holding that it was free to ignore the Congressional command because given without constitutional authority, the court gave judgment dismissing the proceeding.

The case comes here on petition for certiorari which assigns as error the ruling below that the Congressional mandate was without constitutional authority. Because of the importance of the questions involved we issued the

[ 323 U.S. Page 5]

     writ, 321 U.S. 761. For reasons which will presently appear, we hold that we have jurisdiction to review the judgment below.

Several years before the enactment of the Special Act, petitioner brought suit in the Court of Claims to recover amounts alleged to be due upon his contract with the Government for the construction of a tunnel as a part of the water system of the District of Columbia. The construction involved certain excavation and certain filling of the excavated space, in part with concrete and in part with dry packing and grout. Dry packing consists of closely packed broken rock, into which is pumped the grout, a thin liquid mixture of sand, cement and water, which, when it hardens, serves to solidify and strengthen the dry packing.

Included in the demands for which the suit was brought were certain claims which are now asserted in this proceeding. They comprise a claim for additional excavation and concrete work alleged to have been required because of certain orders of the contracting officer, and a claim for dry packing and grout furnished by petitioner and placed by him in certain excavated space outside the so-called "B" line shown on the contract drawings. The "B" line marked the outer limits of the tunnel beyond which, by the terms of the contract, petitioner was not to be paid for excavation.

In the first suit it appeared that petitioner sought recovery for excavation, for which he had not been paid, of the space at the top of the tunnel where the contracting officer had lowered the "B" line by three inches, thus decreasing the space for the excavation for which the contract authorized payment to be made. The Court of Claims denied recovery of this item. The contracting officer had also directed the omission of certain timber supports or lagging required by the contract to be placed on the side walls of certain sections of the tunnel. Cave-ins from the sides resulted, making it necessary that the caved-in

[ 323 U.S. Page 6]

     material be removed and that the resulting space be filled with concrete, all at increased expense to petitioner. The Court of Claims made findings showing the amount of the additional excavation and concrete work claimed, but denied recovery on these items because the order of the contracting officer for the additional ...


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