« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Senator McCARRAN. How many clerks have you?
Senator McCARRAN. How many commissioners have you?
Mr. HART. We have 11 at the present time and have appropriations for 13.
Judge Jones. We have had these authorizations, Senator, for several years, but we have not appointed the two additional Commissioners, because the Department of Justice does not have enough attorneys to service them. So we have the same estimate in for this year also, because we have a great many cases that could be handled more expeditiously if the Department of Justice could furnish the attorneys to conduct the hearings.
APPELLATE JURISDICTION OF INDIAN CLAIMS
Senator McCARRAN. Public Law 726 of the Seventy-ninth Congress created the Indian Claims Commission, and gave appellate jurisdiction to the Court of Claims. Has that increased your burden any?
Judge JONES. That has increased the work some. We have not as yet had a great many of those cases. We have disposed of five appeals from that Commission, and there are four others pending. There have not been many appeals from that Commission as yet, but it does make some additional work.
Senator McCARRAN. From the testimony given before us here during the last week, you are liable to have quite a load.
Judge Jones. Yes; I understand so. Not many of them have reached us as yet, Mr. Chairman.
AMOUNT FOR WITHIN-GRADE PROMOTIONS
Senator McCARRAN. Now, aside from the in-grade promotions amounting to $3,300, why is this increase required?
AMOUNT FOR EXTRA PAY DAY
Mr. HART. $1,500 is for the extra day over the regular 52-week year.
AMOUNT TO MAINTAIN PRESENT EMPLOYEE STRENGTH Mr. Hart. The balance of the increase is $10,200, which is required to maintain the payroll at the present authorized strength of 73 officials and employees. It was cut last year by the Congress, and we are asking for the restoration of that sum.
Senator McCARRAN. And that restoration would be $10,200?
Mr. HART. So far this year it has not done anything to us because we have not appointed the two Commissioners, the two Commissioners' secretaries, nor the auditor. The reason we have not is because of the fact that the Department of Justice has a backlog and they do not have enough attorneys to handle the cases that we have before our court. If they are given more attorneys, we can push our cases faster and dispose of them more quickly.
STENOGRAPHIC LAW CLERKS
Senator McCARRAN. To go over this again, how many clerks have you? Is there a clerk for each Judge?
Mr. Hart. Each judge has what we call a stenographic-law clerk.
Senator McCARRAN. What are the qualifications for the stenographic-law clerks?
Judge Jones. Well, it is like selecting a secretary for someone on the Hill. They are a matter of personal choice. When a new judge comes in, he usually brings his secretary with him. It he does not, he employs someone of that type.
Senator McCARRAN. Now, will you please go back over that $15,000 and break it down for me? Aside from the $3,300, which I understand is for within-grade promotions, there is an item of $10,200?
Mr. Hart. That is right, Senator.
Mr. Hart. Last year the Appropriation Committee cut us that amount, and we are asking for its restoration. We hope that will be granted.
Senator McCARRAN. Why do you want that?
Mr. Hart. We hope next year to be able to put on the two Commissioners and their secretaries and the auditor, in order to dispose of our cases a little more expeditiously.
Judge JONES. I would say, Mr. Chairman, that we will not use the funds next year unless the Department of Justice staff is increased. We do not see any point in selecting the additional Commissioners if the ones that we now have can handle the work.
BACKLOG OF CASES
Senator McCARRAN. How much of a backlog do you have?
Judge Jones. The court is completely current, but we have pending, I think, about 5,005 cases. About half of those cases, roughly speaking, are what we call class cases, such as Customs' overtime pay cases, or other similar cases, where the disposal of one test case will affect the others. But there are some 2,607 regular cases which must be tried, and a great many new cases have been filed in the last
Senator McCARRAN. What is the oldest case that is pending? Judge Jones. I think there is a case from 1938. Is that not correct, Mr. Hart?
Mr. Harr. Yes, sir.
Judge JONES. Yes. We have six Indian cases that were filed in 1938. We have nothing for 1939. We have one Indian case filed in 1940. We have two cases filed in 1942.
Senator McCARRAN. Are those Indian cases?
Judge JONES. No. They are contract cases. Then we have two contract cases in 1943.
Senator McCARRAN. What is the reason for the delay in those cases?
Judge JONES. I would not be able to identify them without checking, but some of them came down under a special act. During the war period, many of the contract cases were handled by the Army and Navy engineers as contracting officers. They were scattered all over the world, and we simply could not get testimony during that period. Some of those cases involve conditions in foreign countries, and it takes a good while to get the papers and to get the facts. The greater portion of the cases have been filed within the last 2 years.
Senator McCARRAN. And in some of the cases the lawyers did not want to try them? As you know, that happens sometimes.
Judge JONES. Yes.
Senator McCARRAN. Now, Judge Jones, where the parties are ready for trial, how long does it require before they can be heard?
PROCEDURE BEFORE COURT OF CLAIMS
Judge JONES. At the time they are filed, we immediately, that is, the same week, refer the cases to a Commissioner. That Commissioner takes it up with the parties. Of course, there is a little intervening time for the filing of pleadings. The Commissioner gets in touch with the parties and usually a hearing is set in from 6 to 8 months, if the attorneys can agree on a date. Of course, we have to go all over the country in conducting these hearings.
In the last 3 years we have calculated that on the average there has been a final disposition in our court in about 18 months.
INTEREST ON INDIAN CLAIMS CASES
Senator McCARRAN. I want to take up with you a matter that has been of great concern to this committee and it will continue to be, I am afraid. That is, these Indian cases. There was a decision rendered in one case for—and I am using round figures, $3,000,000, plus interest of $14,000,000. That has been bothering this committee a great deal.
Judge Jones. The Supreme Court has held that interest should be allowed as a part of just compensation. The Court of Claims cut down the interest in one case and the Supreme Court restored it. I was not a member of the court at the time, but Judge Littleton will remember it.
Judge LITTLETON. We disallowed interest. We held that what the Indians were claiming was a breach of a treaty or failure of the Government to comply with the treaty or statutory provisions and had mishandled their funds. We held that the claim was not a case arising under the fifth amendment, the taking of property, which the Supreme Court decided many years ago would carry interest at a reasonable rate to make full compensation.
Senator McCARRAN. The Supreme Court reversed you?
Judge LITTLETON. They reversed us and held that the Indians were entitled to an additional amount measured by interest at a reasonable rate.
Judge JONES. As a matter of fact, they held that it was due not as interest, but as a part of just compensation and directed the Court to allow it.
We have in the last 2 or 3 years cut down that rate somewhat, since interest rates have come down generally. We have cut down the interest rate to 4 percent. It was formerly 6 percent and then 5 percent. It has been my personal opinion-and I know it has been that of some of the other judges, that there should be some limitation, which we are perhaps not authorized to place, especially in the longtime cases, on those rates of interest.
Senator McCARRAN. I do not think that we have any particular right to inquire as to how you will apply the law, but the committee wants to draw your attention to this, because it is a matter of vital concern to the country.
Judge JONES. Yes, I know it is.
LANDS DIVISION CASES
Senator McCARRAN. It has been brought right to this committee. I have before me here the justification of the Lands Division, showing that the principal in cases decided by the Commission but not yet appealed amounts to $161,515,719, with interest amounting to $793,755,678, or a total of $955,271,397, which just startles us.
Judge Jones. I can well understand that. Of course, some of these old treaties were made 60 and 75 and 100 years ago, and the interest, even at a low interest rate, will mount up in those cases. We have had discussions about reducing that rate of interest a little, and in the last 4 or 5 years, two or three different occasions we have shaded it down. But we do not see how we can violate the law or rather the pattern that has been laid down for us.
Senator McCARRAN. I realize that. We have no right to call on you to violate anything in the matter of law, but I am just drawing your attention to this.
Judge Jones. Yes. I appreciate that, and I would like to have the printed record show the attitude of the committee, because that might help furnish some justification for reasonable action along those lines.
Senator McCARRAN. One thing is that I don't think that they should get more than a person who puts up his money and buys Government bonds as a patriotic step. If he gets more than 2 percent, he is doing pretty well.
Judge JONES. Yes. I have always felt, Senator, that when a man settles a long-time note, a note that has been pending a long time, he should even cut it below that when he settles. However, the Indians have been treated as the wards of the Government.
CLAIMS AGAINST UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
Senator McCARRAN. Let me draw your attention, Judge, to something that has gone before us here in the justification of the Claims Division.
There are in claims already filed, $1,757,611,407 as principal, with an interest amount of $8,137,183,347. When we look at those figures, and see what we have ahead of us, why, it just makes us think twice, and I want you gentlemen to think a couple of times, if you don't mind.
Judge LITTLETON. It might io of interest to you, in connection with the allowance of interest, that that comes up under the decision of the Supreme Court which says “just compensation.” Now, let's say that we fix the value of property that was taken in 1855. Under the statute, and the Supreme Court decisions, the Congress provides for offsets from the amount determined to be due. It has been held and determined that the interest must be computed upon the amount determined to be due, less offsets for gratuities paid during this long period of years, determined at the time of the judgment. If Congress were to decide that those offsets ought to be prorated annually and set off each year as expended, the interest, as a part of just compensation, computed on the diminishing annual balance, would be materially lower and the amount added to the principal sum by way of interest, would likewise be much less.
Senator McCARRAN. I am very glad to have your observation, I assure you. Have you anything further you care to say on this?
Judge Jones. Not on that item, Mr. Chairman.
REPAIRS AND IMPROVEMENTS
Senator McCARRAN. For "Repairs and improvements, Court of Claims,” you are asking for an appropriation of $159,100, which is an increase of $150,500. I notice that $150,000 is for reconstruction and additions to the rear building to provide additional accommodations for the court.
Judge Jones. Mr. Chairman, the Bureau of the Budget and some of the others, have indicated that they will probably want to make some plans that may involve other uses of our building; and for that reason we don't think it would be wise for us to press for the appropriation at this time. While we need additional space, it would not seem wise to make substantial additions until that issue is settled. I may add that representatives of the Budget have indicated that the present Court of Appeals building with some additional space in the old District Court Building could be made available for our court in the event our present building is used for other purposes.
Senator McČARRAN. All right. Thank you. Is there anything else?
TYPE AND NUMBER OF CASES PENDING
Judge JONES. We have a statement here as to the number of cases, the character of the cases, and their status, which we will be glad to file.
Senator McCARRAN. I will ask that that be inserted in the record. Thank you very much.
Judge Jones. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.