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PRIEST v. TRUSTEES TOWN LAS VEGAS

March 9, 1914

PRIEST
v.
TRUSTEES OF THE TOWN OF LAS VEGAS, NEW MEXICO



APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF THE TERRITORY OF NEW MEXICO

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Hughes, Van Devanter, Lamar, Pitney

Author: Mckenna

[ 232 U.S. Page 605]

 MR. JUSTICE MCKENNA delivered the opinion of the court.

Action for mandamus brought by appellants in the District Court of the county of San Miguel, then in the Territory of New Mexico, against appellees as trustees of the town of Las Vegas to require them to execute a deed or deeds to the property described in the petition. The appellees filed an answer to the petition and also a counterclaim. Those papers set out the history of the Las Vegas grant, preceding and subsequent to its confirmation by the act of Congress hereinafter referred to and the final patent to the town. Motions to strike them out were overruled, and demurrers to them were also overruled. An answer having been filed to the counter-claim by appellants, portions of which were struck out by the court

[ 232 U.S. Page 606]

     on motion of appellees, after hearing judgment was rendered dismissing the petition. The judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the Territory.

The petition alleges appellants to be the owners in fee simple and holders of a perfect title to the land described therein and that it lies within the boundaries of "The Las Vegas Land Grant." That they acquired the title thereto between October 4, 1888, and July 1, 1894, by purchase from the then owners and occupants of the several portions comprising the tract and obtained deeds of conveyance therefor and afterwards instituted proceedings in the District Court of San Miguel County against certain named persons "and all the unknown claimants of interests in the lands and premises" adverse to appellants, to quiet their title to the lands, and that on September 15, 1894, a decree was duly entered in the cause confirming and establishing in them an estate in fee simple, absolute, against any and all and every adverse claim of all persons whomsoever, and quieting and setting at rest the title to the land against appellees. A copy of the decree is attached to the petition.

The petition also alleges that the Las Vegas grant was confirmed by act of Congress on June 21, 1860, to the town of Las Vegas and became thereby segregated from the public domain and the property of the grantee and its privies.

That Jefferson Reynolds, Eugenio Romero, Charles Ilfeld, Elisha V. Long, Isidor V. Gallegos, Felix Esquibel and F. H. Pierce are the trustees of the town, duly appointed by the District Court of San Miguel County under and by virtue of an act of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of New Mexico entitled "An Act to Provide for the Management of the Las Vegas Grant, and for other purposes," approved March 12, 1903, and that it was made the duty of the board of trustees to make, execute and deliver deeds of conveyance to all persons who held a

[ 232 U.S. Page 607]

     title to any lands of the grant, which became or was perfect or entitled them to the possession thereof at the time of the acquisition of New Mexico, under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, or at any time subsequent thereto.

That appellants made application to the board of trustees to execute and deliver a deed to them of the tract of land described, the title to which had become perfected by the decree hereinbefore specified, but the board declined to recognize the title of appellants and to issue the deed of conveyance asked for.

Mandamus, directed to the board, was prayed.

The ground of appellants' petition, therefore, is that they possess a perfect title established by the suit and decree referred to which entitled them to a deed from the trustees under the act of the Legislative Assembly of March 12, 1903. Laws of New Mexico, 1903, 72. That act becomes a factor for consideration. By it the District Court of San Miguel County is vested with jurisdiction to manage, control and administer the land grant. In the exercise of such jurisdiction power is conferred to appoint a board of trustees from among the residents upon the grant. Provision is made for their organization, and the court is empowered to exercise the same control over their acts as courts of equity exercise over receivers. And it is provided that "this act shall not interfere with or prejudice any vested rights in and to any of the lands embraced within the boundaries of said Las Vegas Grant, or preclude a judicial examination or adjustment thereof, and it is hereby made the duty of said board of trustees to make, execute and deliver deeds of ...


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