The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCGARRAGHY
This is a proceeding for a judgment declaring (1) that the United States is rightfully the owner of and has accepted ownership by treaty and grant from the Republic of Mexico of the minerals in certain lands in California ceded by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 9 Stat. 922, and later patented by the United States to parties who claimed title under a prior Mexican grant; (2) that the Mineral Leasing Act of February 25, 1920, 41 Stat. 437, 443, 30 U.S.C. 181, 226, 30 U.S.C.A. 181, 226, is applicable to the right to develop the minerals under the said confirmed Mexican grant; and (3) for a mandatory injunction or order directing the Secretary of Interior to reprocess plaintiff's application for an oil and gas lease filed pursuant to the Mineral Leasing Act and to grant the plaintiff's application for such lease.
By the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of February 2, 1848, 9 Stat. 922, the Mexican war was brought to a close and, among other things, a large territory including all of the present State of California was ceded to the United States. Among other provisions, the Treaty provided for the protection of property in the ceded territories which was then held by many individuals under prior grants from Mexico and Spain.
The Protocol of Queretaro dated May 26, 1848, contained the following clarifying provision:
'The American Government by suppressing the Xth Article of the Treaty of Guadalupe did not in any way intend to annul the grants of land made by Mexico in the ceded territories. These grants, notwithstanding the suppression of the article of the Treaty, preserve the legal value which they may possess; and the grantees may cause their legitimate titles to be acknowledged before the American tribunals.
'Conformably to the law of the United States, legitimate titles to every description of property personal and real, existing in the ceded territories, are those which were legitimate titles under the Mexican law in California and New Mexico up to the 13th day of May 1846 and in Texas up to the 2nd day of March 1836.'
In order to establish the validity and the boundaries of the private claims and to set apart the lands privately owned from those which would thereafter be owned by the United States, Congress passed the Act of March 3, 1851, 9 Stat. 631, entitled 'An Act to ascertain and settle the private Land Claims in the State of California.'
The Act established a Board of Commissioners to hear all land claims with provision for appeal to the District Court and to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Sec. 8 of the Act provided that claimants should present their claims to the Commissioners when sitting as a Board and thereafter the Commission should 'proceed promptly to examine the same upon such evidence, and upon the evidence produced in behalf of the United States, and to decide upon the validity of the said claim' and thereafter, within thirty days from the date of the decision, to certify the same, with the reasons on which it was founded, to the District Attorney of the United States in and for the District for which the decision was rendered.
Sections 9 and 10 provided for a court review in the District Court of the United States and an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Sec. 11 provided that the Commissioners and the District Court and Supreme Court in passing upon the validity of any claim 'shall be governed by the treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo, the law of nations, the laws, usages, and customs of the government from which the claim is derived, the principles of equity, and the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, so far as they are applicable.'
Sec. 13 of the Act, after providing that all lands, the claims to which have been finally rejected by the Commissioners or which are finally decided to be invalid by the courts, and all lands the claims to which shall not have been presented to the Commissioners within two years from the date of the Act, shall be deemed held and considered as part of the public domain of the United States, further provided that 'for all claims finally confirmed by the said commissioners, or by the said District or Supreme Court, a patent shall issue to the claimant upon his presenting to the general land office an authentic certificate of such confirmation, and a plat or survey of the said land, duly certified and approved by the surveyor-general of California, whose duty it shall be to cause all private claims which shall be finally confirmed to be accurately surveyed, and to furnish plats of the same * * *.'
Sec. 15 of the Act provided that 'any patent to be issued under this act, shall be conclusive between the United States and the said claimants only, and shall not affect the interests of third persons.'
On October 19, 1852, various heirs of Christobel Dominguez presented a petition to the Board of Commissioners appointed under the above Act claiming 'in fee simple a certain tract of land situate in the County of Los Angeles, known by the name of 'San Pedro' containing ten square leagues, more or less.'
The claim went on to state that the claimants 'claim said tract of land, a portion of them by inheritance from, and a portion by purchase from, the heirs of Christobel Dominguez who died seized in fee thereof and who inherited from his uncle, Juan Jose Dominguez, who died also seized therefor in fee somewhere about the year 1809-10.'
After reciting the chain of title and their relationship to Christobel Dominguez, the petition stated 'and your petitioners therefore aver they claim in fee the said Rancho of San Pedro as tenants in common in the shares and proportions as aforesaid in virtue of the aforesaid grants, of their long and specific possession and of the ...