Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval "An Act to Amend an Act Entitled 'An Act to Establish Circuit Courts of Appeals, and to Define and Regulate in Certain Cases the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, and for Other Purposes'"
To the Senate:
I return herewith without my approval the bill (S. 2729) entitled "An act to amend an act entitled 'An act to establish circuit courts of appeals, and to define and regulate in certain cases the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, and for other purposes."'
The original act to which this amendment is proposed, constituting an intermediate court of appeals, had for its object the relief of the Supreme Court by limiting the cases which might be brought up for hearing in that court. The first section of the bill under consideration allows uppeals in criminal cases where the sentence imposes no imprisonment and the fine is as much as $1,000. The effect of this provision will be to bring to the Supreme Court many cases that in my opinion should be finally determined in the intermediate appellate court, and so in part to defeat the general purpose of Congress in constituting the intermediate court. But this objection would not alone have sufficient weight in my mind to induce me to return the bill. Section 3 of the bill is as follows:
That no appeal shall hereafter be allowed from judgments of the Court of Claims in cases under the act of March 3, 1891, entitled "An act to provide for the adjudication and payment of claims arising from Indian depredations," except where the adjudication involves the construction or application of the Constitution or the validity or construction of a treaty or the constitutionality of a law of the United States: Provided, however , That upon such appeal it shall be competent for the Supreme Court to require, by certiorari or otherwise, the whole case to be certified for its review and determination upon the facts as well as the law.
I am advised by the Attorney-General that under the Indian-depredations act 8,000 cases, involving an aggregate of damages claimed of about $30,000,000, have already been filed. A number of these cases involve as much as $100,000 each, while a few involve as much as $500,000 each and one something over $1,000,000. The damages which may be awarded in these cases by the Court of Claims are to be paid out of the trust funds of the Indians held by the United States. or, if there are no such funds, out of the Treasury of the United States. The law referring these cases to the Court of Claims has had no judicial interpretation, and many novel and difficult questions are likely to arise. It is quite a startling proposition, and a very novel one, I think, that there shall be absolutely no opportunity for the review in an appellate court, in cases involving such large amounts, of questions involving the construction of the statute under which the court is proceeding, or those various questions of law, many of them new, which necessarily arise in such cases.
Neither the claimants, the Indians, nor the Government of the United States should be absolutely denied opportunity to bring their exceptions to review by some appellate tribunal. I would not suggest that an appeal should be allowed in all cases. Some limitation as to amount would be reasonable, and perhaps some discretion might be lodged in the Supreme Court as to granting appeals. The limitations, however, imposed by the section I have quoted are so severe and unreasonable, in my judgment, that I have felt compelled to return the bill to the Senate with a view to its reconsideration.
APP Note: Title devised by Gerhard Peters
Benjamin Harrison, Message to the Senate Returning Without Approval "An Act to Amend an Act Entitled 'An Act to Establish Circuit Courts of Appeals, and to Define and Regulate in Certain Cases the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, and for Other Purposes'" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/206168