Law School Case Brief
Den Ex Dem. Murray v. Hoboken Land & Improv. Co. - 59 U.S. (18 How.) 272 (1856)
Congress cannot either withdraw from judicial cognizance any matter which, from its nature, is the subject of a suit at the common law, or in equity, or admiralty; nor, on the other hand, can it bring under the judicial power a matter which, from its nature, is not a subject for judicial determination. At the same time there are matters, involving public rights, which may be presented in such form that the judicial power is capable of acting on them, and which are susceptible of judicial determination, but which congress may or may not bring within the cognizance of the courts of the United States, as it may deem proper. Equitable claims to land by the inhabitants of ceded territories form a striking instance of such a class of cases; and as it depends upon the will of congress whether a remedy in the courts shall be allowed at all, in such cases, they may regulate it and prescribe such rules of determination as they may think just and needful. Thus it has been repeatedly decided in this class of cases, that upon their trial the acts of executive officers, done under the authority of congress, were conclusive, either upon particular facts involved in the inquiry or upon the whole title.
This case arose from an action of ejectment, in which both parties claimed title to certain property. Defendants claimed title under a sale by virtue of what was referred to as a distress warrant, issued by the solicitor of the treasury under an act of Congress. The judges in the court below were in disagreement as to whether the sale was valid in that there was some question as to whether the statute that produced the distress warrant proceeding was constitutional.
Was the statutory basis for the distress warrant proceeding violative of the constitutional guarantee of due process?
The Supreme Court of the United States found that there was no constitutional problem with the distress warrant and that the sale was valid. The Court also found that after the levy of the distress warrant had begun, the individual could bring before a district court the question of whether he was actually indebted as recited in the warrant.
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