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UNITED STATES v. ALGOMA LUMBER CO. *FN*

decided: January 3, 1939.

UNITED STATES
v.
ALGOMA LUMBER CO.*FN*



CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CLAIMS.

Hughes, Brandeis, Butler, Stone, Black, Reed; McReynolds and Roberts took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Stone

[ 305 U.S. Page 417]

 MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Decision of these cases turns on the question whether certain contracts for the sale of timber on land of the Klamath Indian Reservation in Oregon, executed by the Superintendent of the Klamath Indian School by authority of an Act of Congress, are contracts of the United States upon which suits may be maintained in the Court of Claims.

Section 7 of the Act of Congress of June 25, 1910, c. 431, 36 Stat. 855, 857, provides that the "timber on unallotted lands of any Indian reservation may be sold under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior, and the proceeds from such sales shall be used for the benefit of the Indians of the reservation in such manner as he may direct." Section 8 of the Act provides that "the timber on any Indian allotment held under a trust or other patent containing restrictions on alienations, may be sold by the allottee with the consent of the Secretary of the Interior and the proceeds thereof shall be paid to the allottee or disposed of for his benefit under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior."

The present suits were brought in the Court of Claims by respondents against the United States to recover alleged overpayments of amounts due upon contracts for the purchase of timber upon certain unallotted and allotted Indian lands in the Klamath Reservation. The contracts

[ 305 U.S. Page 418]

     were executed pursuant to §§ 7 and 8 of the Act of 1910 and regulations of the Secretary of the Interior. They provided that the prices fixed for the timber to be cut should be readjusted by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at intervals of three years, but that permitted increases in price should "not exceed fifty per cent of the increase in the average mill run wholesale net value of lumber . . . during the three years preceding January 1 of the year in which the new prices are fixed."

The Court of Claims in each case found that prices fixed by the Indian Commissioner had exceeded the permitted increases and that in consequence there had been an overpayment of the amounts due under the contracts. It held that they were contracts of the United States and in each case gave judgment against the government for the amount of the overpayments. Algoma Lumber Co. v. United States, 86 Ct. Cls. 226; Forest Lumber Co. v. United States, 86 Ct. Cls. 188; Lamm Lumber Co. v. United States, 86 Ct. Cls. 171. We granted certiorari, October 10, 1938, the questions involved being of public importance in the administration by the United States of Indian lands and in defining the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.

The petitions for certiorari challenged the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims in terms sufficiently broad to raise the question, not considered below or argued here, whether, assuming the contracts were obligations of the United States, as the court below held, suits to recover the overpayments are upon quasi contracts or contracts "implied in law" not within the jurisdiction conferred on the Court of Claims by § 145(1) of the Judicial Code, 28 U. S. C. § 250 (1).*fn1 Merritt v. United States, 267 U.S. 338;

[ 305 U.S. Page 419]

     allottees for purchase of the timber on their allotments upon terms similar to those of the contract for the purchase of timber on the unallotted lands.

As required by the contracts, the purchase payments by the Algoma Company, including the alleged overpayments, were made to the Superintendent for the benefit of the Indians. Pursuant to the Act of March 3, 1883, 22 Stat. 582, 590, as amended May 17, 1926, 44 Stat. 560, all moneys received from the unallotted lands, less expenses, were deposited by the Superintendent in the treasury of the United States in an account designated "Indian Moneys, Proceeds of Labor." Payments for timber on the allotted lands, less expenses, were deposited by the Superintendent in private state banks and credited on his own books to the allottees according to their respective interests. Act of July 1, 1898, 30 Stat. 571, 595; Act of April 30, 1908, 35 Stat. 70, 73; Act of June 25, 1910, 36 Stat. 855, 856. All the proceeds of sale are required to be held ...


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