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Fortune Hangs By A Hair

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Pan Francisco. March 9.- The ownership of $1,000,000 worth of land in California depends upon the legal construction of a word. And a simple word it is- the little familiar word "brought." But a legal battle carne on in the United States circuit court before Judge Morrow over the meaning of that word, as it is used in an act of congress, approved March 3, 1891. The act provides that no suit shall be brought by the United States to vacate or annul any patent to public lands issued before the date mentioned within flve years from the passage of the act. This "period of limitation," as the lawyers style it, expired March 3 last. Consequently it appears that all patents to public lands issued before March 3, 1891. became absolute and irrevocable March 3, 1896, unless previously attacked by suit brought as the law requires. The case in which the point has been raised is that of the United States against the American Lumber company of Chicago and the Central Trust company of New York. It is a suit In which the government seeks to hav cancelled upon the ground oL fraud and conspiracy more than 160 patents to railroad timber lands in California, situated in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. The American Lumber company holds the patents to these lands, which embrace no fewer than 27,000 acres, and their valuĆ© has been estimated at in the neighborhood of $1,000,000. The Central Trust company issued mortgage bonds on the security of the lands to the amount of $300,000. The bill of complaint was filed in the circuit court here Feb. 3, 1896. That was just a month before the statutory period of limitation expired, after which the government could not institute suit. The question to be decided is: "Was the suit brought when the bill was filed?" The matter was argued before Judge Moitow and submitted upon briefs. It is said to be the first case involving the question of when a suit is "brought" in conection with United States land patents and the limitation of flve years thereon. The decisiĆ³n wil) thus afford an important precedent for both courts and lawyers.


Ann Arbor Argus
Old News