Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land & Improvement Company

PETITIONER:John Den, ex dem. James B. Murray and John C. Kayser
RESPONDENT:Hoboken Land & Improvement Company

DECIDED BY: Taney Court (1853-1857)

ARGUED: Jan 30, 1856 / Jan 31, 1856 / Feb 01, 1856 / Feb 04, 1856
DECIDED: Feb 19, 1856

Facts of the case

While working as a customs collector for the federal government, Samuel Swartwout embezzled more than $1 billion. He used this money to purchase land in New Jersey. In accordance with an act passed in 1820, the Treasury Department issued a warrant of distress against Swartwout. This voided his purchase of land and provided for the seizure of the money he embezzled. Swartwout argued that the 1820 Act violated the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law since it authorized a non-judicial procedure to remove property. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in order to resolve conflicting opinions of judges on the circuit court of the United States for the district of New Jersey.


Does the federal government violate the due process of law guarantee of the Fifth Amendment by recovering funds embezzled from it through nonjudicial procedures?