United States v. Klein

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 128 (1871)



The Constitution provides that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and such inferior courts as the Congress shall from time to time ordain and establish. The same instrument provides that in all cases other than those of original jurisdiction, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.


Deceased had done acts considered to be acts in aid of the rebellion during the Civil War. He had abandoned cotton to agents of the Treasury Department, who sold it and placed the proceeds into the Treasury of the United States. After the war, the deceased took an amnesty oath which would afford him a pardon and the restoration of his property pursuant to a congressional provision. The Court of Claims pronounced him entitled to a judgment for the net proceeds in the treasury and, subsequently, the United States appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. 


Was the administrator entitled to the proceeds of deceased's cotton?




The Court affirmed the decision to award the administrator the proceeds of deceased's cotton, holding that title to the proceeds of the property which came to the possession of the government by capture or abandonment was in no case divested out of the original owner. The Court concluded that (1) the congressional provision improperly denied the Court appellate jurisdiction regarding decisions by the Court of Claims based on such pardons and (2) the congressional provision infringed the President's constitutional power to grant pardons.

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