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WHITCOMB v. WHITE.

decided: May 17, 1909.

WHITCOMB
v.
WHITE.



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO.

Author: Brewer

[ 214 U.S. Page 16]

 MR. JUSTICE BREWER, after making the foregoing statement, delivered the opinion of the court.

The decision of the Land Department was not rested solely upon the fact that White's formal application was filed a few hours before that of the trustee for the occupants of the townsite, but rather chiefly upon the priority of the former's equitable rights. So far as such decision involves questions of fact it is conclusive upon the courts. Johnson v. Towsley, 13 Wall. 72, 86; Shepley v. Cowan, 91 U.S. 330, 340; Marquez v. Frisbie, 101 U.S. 473, 476; Quinby v. Conlan, 104 U.S. 420, 425, 426; Burfenning v. C., St. P., M. & O. Ry., 163 U.S. 321, 323; De Cambra v. Rogers, 189 U.S. 119, 120.

And this rule is applied in cases where there is a mixed

[ 214 U.S. Page 17]

     question of law and fact, unless the court is able to so separate the question as to see clearly what and where the mistake of law is. As said by Mr. Justice Miller in Marquez v. Frisbie, supra, p. 476:

"This means, and it is, a sound principle, that where there is a mixed question of law and of fact, and the court cannot so separate it as to see clearly where the mistake of law is, the decision of the tribunal to which the law has confided the matter is conclusive." Quinby v. Conlan, supra, 426.

Further, the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth findings of the trial court, which were not disturbed by the Supreme Court in its opinion, were:

"38. That the officers of the Interior Department did not exclude any testimony, and there was in said Land Office and said department a full, fair and complete hearing.

"39. That the officers of said Interior Department, of said Land Office, or any or either of them, were not guilty of any fraud or any unlawful conduct."

Clearly the findings of the Land Department cannot be disregarded, especially since they are reinforced by the judgment of the State courts. This court ought not to reverse such judgment except upon the clearest and most convincing evidence of mistake or injustice.

These are among the matters shown by the testimony and upon which the decisions of the Land Department and the State court were based: While the entire quarter-section was public land, and before settlement by any individual, the Northern Pacific constructed its road, crossing Clark's Fork of the Columbia River near the tract. At that time the public surveys had not been extended over this region; indeed, were not so extended until 1893, and the approved plat of the township was not filed in the local land office until November 27, 1895, the day the formal applications of these parties were made. Between 1884 and 1890 ...


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