United States v. Hougham

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Mapp's Residence

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 364 US 310 (1960)
ARGUED: Oct 18, 1960
DECIDED: Nov 07, 1960

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Hougham

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 18, 1960 in United States v. Hougham

Earl Warren:

Number 24, United States, Petitioner, versus E. B. Hougham et al.

Mr. Barnett.

Wayne G. Barnett:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case is here on certiorari, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to review its judgment in the civil action brought by the United States to recover statutory damages for the fraudulent purchases of government property.

Respondent Hougham is a used car dealer, the other three respondents are veterans, who had been found fraudulently obtained veteran's priorities certificates and used them to purchase for Hougham some $79,500 worth of surplus trucks and trailers.

The fraud consisted of misrepresentations and their applications for these certificates that the property was to be used by them in their own businesses whereas in fact they had no businesses in purchasing the property for Hougham.

Those findings were affirmed on appeal and they are not an issue here.

The only question here is the measure of recovery to which the United States is entitled.

The statute, Section 26 (b) of the Surplus Properly Act of 1944, which is set forth in our main brief at pages 2 and 3, provides three alternative measures of recovery.

The defrauder is required to pay either $2,000 for each fraudulent act plus double damages or if the United States shall so elect, a sum equal to twice the consideration agreed to be given to the property.

Or again, if United States shall so elect to restore the property itself and forfeit you on this page.

Now, neither the last option nor actual damages under the first option are involved here.

And the choice here is narrowed to recovery of either $2,000 for each act or double consideration damages under the second option.

The Government's claim is that it is entitled to recover under the second option 26 (b) (2) that is twice the $79,500 paid for the property or a total of a $159,000.

The District Court affirmed by the Court of Appeals held that we were entitled to recover only under the first option that is $2,000 for each act.

Felix Frankfurter:

What was each act in this case?

Wayne G. Barnett:

The Court held that the -- the only accessible acts were the applications for the priority certificates.

Felix Frankfurter:


Wayne G. Barnett:

The fraudulent applications, not as we claimed each purchase.

Felix Frankfurter:

How many applications were --

Wayne G. Barnett:

There were only four applications producing a -- a judgment.

Felix Frankfurter:

Four documents that is.

Wayne G. Barnett:

Four --

Felix Frankfurter:

Four documents.

Wayne G. Barnett:

Yes, yes.

And he accessed $2,000 for each of those four, giving us a judgment of $8,000.

Felix Frankfurter:

And you claim what?

Wayne G. Barnett:

Well, we -- they argued it that each purchase was an accessible act.

We did not appeal on that ground and do not raise it here.

Our only argument here is that we're entitled to recover under the second option rather than the first that is double consideration damages instead of $2,000 assessments.