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(nathan R. Maeqold)
At the close of the fiscal year, as well as at its beginning, the legal staff of the Department consisted of 67 attorneys serving in Washington and in the field under the jurisdiction of the Solicitor. During the year three attorneys were added to the immediate staff in the central office of the Solicitor. However, the aggregate membership of the legal sections attached to various bureaus in the Department was decreased by the same number. Thus, the personnel remained nearly constant during the year. Yet, the business of the Solicitor increased greatly over the same period.
In the year 1933-34, 84 formal opinions were rendered by the Solicitor. During the year ended June 30, 1935, the number of opinions rendered was 237, an increase of almost 300 percent. About onethird of these opinions concerned accident claims, which have been very numerous in connection with emergency conservation work and other operations in areas under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Some 50 title opinions have been required, the majority of them in connection with the land-purchase program of the National Park Service. Less numerous, but individually more important, have been those opinions rendered in response to particular legal inquiries concerning the interpretation and administration of the Indian Reorganization Act, the Taylor grazing law and the general withdrawal of the public domain under the Executive orders of November 26, 1934, and February 5, 1935. Other matters involved in important opinions have been so miscellaneous as these:
Applicability of State sales and license taxes to operations of concessionaires within national parks;
Duration of power of the President to reorganize the Executive branch of the Government and application of that power to the government of the District of Columbia;
Right of certain Wisconsin Indians to enrollment with the Chippewas of Minnesota;
Resettlement of rural groups under subsistence homestead legislation;
Establishment of national monuments under the act for preservation of American antiquities;
Right of St. Elizabeths Hospital to hold soldiers and sailors in custody after their discharge from the service; and
Wages and hours of Park Service employees engaged in trades.
Appeals and related motions in public-land cases have increased about 100 percent. Land cases received this year numbered 1,018, as contrasted with 520 similar cases received during the preceding year. However, this increase has not been allowed to cause an accumulation of pending cases. A year ago 407 cases were pending after 549 had been disposed of during the preceding 12 months. But on June 30 of this year, despite the doubling of the number of appeals filed, only 315 land cases were pending. This result has been accomplished by the disposition of 1,110 land cases during a single year, a tremendous undertaking under any circumstances and particularly in view of the unusual amount of other legal work which the business of the Department has involved.
One of these appeals, United States v. California et al, (A-17366), is perhaps the most important single case considered by the legal officers of the Department in recent years. This decision, commonly called the " Section 36 Case ", asserts the validity of the title of the United States to lands within the Elk Hills oil field in California, one of the most valuable oil-producing areas in the United States. Preparation of the opinion required the examination of some 10,000 pages of testimony and hundreds of exhibits in order that findings might be made upon controverted issues of fact concerning the mineral character of the area as it appeared 30 years ago.
During the fiscal year consent decrees have been entered in 18 war minerals relief cases. Seventeen cases of this type were dismissed by the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia either after hearing upon petition and answer or upon motion of the Secretary of the Interior. The Secretary of the Interior has been defendant in several suits for mandamus or for injunction which have been in process of litigation in the courts of the District of Columbia during the year. In all of these cases the Solicitor has represented the Secretary.
The Solicitor has also assisted special counsel for the people of Puerto Rico in the representation of the interests of Puerto Rico in cases before the Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on appeal from the courts in Puerto Rico. In addition, attorneys attached to the several bureaus of the Department, particularly the Indian Office and the Reclamation Service, have assisted the Department of Justice in the conduct of litigation involving interests of this Department.
During the first session of the Seventy-fourth Congress the legislative section of the office of the Solicitor has prepared or assisted in the preparation of approximately 115 bills, has prepared or reviewed approximately 1,140 reports and letters dealing with legislation, and has represented the Department before congressional committees on some 70 occasions. However, much of the basic work of preparing a departmental legislative program must be done when Congress is not in session. As a condition precedent to the preparation of any important legislative measure and to the exposition of such a bill to congressional committees a thorough exploration of all pertinent factual and legal aspects of the proposal must be conducted. This requires investigation and study in Washington and not infrequently in the field. In anticipation of questions which may be raised, potential constitutional issues must be examined in many cases and opinions must be written for reference as occasion may arise.
Among the bills sponsored by the Department and enacted during the first session of the Seventy-fourth Congress, two are mentioned particularly. Public, No. 292 is an act authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to acquire, restore, and preserve historic sites and properties. No longer will it be necessary to rely upon public-spirited and wealthy individuals to preserve and restore historical landmarks of the United States. Public, No. 297% is an act abolishing the present unsatisfactory permit system of mining upon the public domain and substituting a more equitable system of leasing, under which the United States, the States, and the reclamation fund will receive the royalty benefits which have heretofore accrued in large measure to middlemen who contributed little or nothing toward the development of the oil resources of the Nation.
It is noteworthy that the legal business of the General Land Office has increased rather than decreased since the general public land withdrawals effected by the Executive orders of November 26, 1934, and February 5, 1935. In fact, the promulgation of those orders has had the effect of stimulation of recourse by claimants to every equity or alleged equity and to every legal right of appeal possible in order to make their claims relate back to some time prior to the withdrawals.
The Solicitor has supplied requisite legal services to aid Indian tribes in drafting constitutions, bylaws and charters authorized by the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934. At the same time members of the immediate staff of the Solicitor and attorneys in the Indian Office have devoted much time to a comprehensive revision of the complicated and uncoordinated departmental regulations governing the conduct of Indians. New rules of May 31, 1935, represent a thorough revision of the entire body of regulations concerning Indian probate matters. A similar revision of Indian law and order regulations has been completed. Work continues on grazing, leasing, and other regulations. In addition, Indian liquor laws and regulations are being accorded particular study with a view to recommending legislative and administrative action for the more effective control of liquor traffic upon Indian reservations.
111 the initiation, organization, construction, and management of some 40 reclamation projects the condemnation and purchase of land and rights-of-way, the organization of irrigation districts and water users' associations, the negotiation, execution, and performance of repayment contracts and the prosecution of litigation for the adjudication of water rights continue to require extensive, varied, and important legal services. As was pointed out a year ago in the .annual report of the Solicitor, the current program of the Bureau of Reclamation, financed principally by emergency public-works allotments, is almost as extensive as the aggregate of operations heretofore undertaken by the Bureau during the first 30 years of its existence. This increase in reclamation work has caused the legal business of the Bureau to increase 5 or 6 fold during the last 2 years. Yet, the legal staff attached to the Bureau has not been increased at all. The present staff is carrying a burden greatly in excess of reasonable assignment.
The following statistical summary of major features of the work of the Solicitor, exclusive of the business dispatched by legal sections attached to particular bureaus, has been compiled for convenient reference:
1 Prior to this year opinions of the Solicitor have been Included in "Miscellaneous matters."
Miscellaneous matters include the following:
Reports on legislation 1160
Contracts for the erection of buildings, road construction and repairs,
supplies, etc 2833
Cases prepared for submission to the Board of Equitable Adjudication 937
Oil and gas matters:
Extensions of time 2384
Canceled..- . .... 271 Coal matters: