United States v. Merz

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Cumberland Hospital

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 376 US 192 (1964)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1964 / Jan 14, 1964
DECIDED: Feb 24, 1964

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Merz

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1964 in United States v. Merz

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1964 in United States v. Merz

Earl Warren:

Number 79, 2,872.88 Acres of Land, etcetera, et al., Petitioner, versus United States.

Mr. Champion.

Forrest L. Champion, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I approach this argument with a keenly felt sense of humility, recognizing that despite any exhausting effort to study the law with respect to the issues involved in this case, one can never know it all and while I may seem categorical or firm in my position, nevertheless, I recognize the right to a difference of opinion and a difference in the construction of the rules.

I approach it also with a keenly felt sense of pride that this Court considered the issues involved in our petition for certiorari of sufficient import to justify its consideration.Most cases are decided upon their facts but this case is different.

It depends, we submit, upon the interpretation of the federal rules of civil procedure and we respectfully submit the integrity of the federal rules of civil procedure are at stake particularly, Rules 46, 51, 52, 53 7 -- and 71A (h).

The last three rules are specifically involved.

Rules 46, 51 and 61, I omitted to state that one, are incidentally involved if we construe the rules together, following the analogy of the doctrine of pari materia.

As we see it, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were -- were a tremendous advance in the promotion of the expeditious trial of cases upon their merits.

And that's the reason why we say that Rules 46, 51 and 61 are involved -- incidentally involved because they reflect the rationale behind the rules.

It is a maxim of the common law that -- that which I can't quote for Latin but I can say that it is a maxim that is well-recognized and that is, it is in the interest of the public that there'd be an end to litigation.

In other words, the person is entitled to a trial in court of fair trial of his issues but he is not entitled to continue to carry on litigation when he has an opportunity to make exceptions and apprise the trial court of the position which he takes.

The law requires -- due process requires that he let the trial court know with the first opportune time, what position he takes with respect to a particular matter, so that the trial court can determine the merit of his position and that has particular application here because under Rule 53 (e) (2), the objector to the findings of fact, may file objections.

And the only difference in our position between the Government and us is this.

We maintain that those objections must be specific.

The Government agrees that while Rule 53 (e) (2) reads may and seems to be permissive that it is in fact, mandatory.

We think that the better reason authority support that means.

Our only difference in opinion or position is that they say, it may -- the objections maybe general, we say they must be specific.

They must be sufficiently specific to apprise the trial court of the position taken at that time, so that the trial court, if it deems the findings of fact inadequate in any particular respect, can immediately remand it and the Commission can make findings of fact and then the trial court can review the Commission's findings in the light of the additional findings of fact.

We say the findings of fact in this case are so utterly general as to raise no question for review and that question is tremendously important.

That, however, is a procedural question under Rule 53.

The other question that is involved is what is a fact under Rule 52?

The Government takes the position that it is necessary in making a finding of fact that a master state what evidence he credited and what evidence he dis -- discredited.

And the Fifth Circuit went along with that position.

Indeed, that is the crux of the Fifth Circuit's opinion.

Even though at the same term of court, the Fifth Circuit rendered a -- a decision which reads to our way of thinking that altogether differently, cannot be reconciled.

It is our opinion that it cannot be reconciled and I -- I don't want to be inaccurate in this respect and I -- I therefore, ask the Court's leave to quote it, in order that I might be accurate.

It's a very short quotation and since it was decided by the Fifth Circuit at the same term of court and is so utterly inconsistent with the position taken in this decision appeal from that I read, "Where the only issue on appeal was one of fact and the reviewing court could not determine that the judgment of the trial court approving the findings of a special master were clearly erroneous, judgment would be affirmed."

That, we submit to you cannot be reconciled with the decision in the instant case.

But yet, aside from that, there were numerous other decisions of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals already existent at the time this appeal was held, which decisions the -- the Fifth Circuit in this opinion, studiously avoid, for instance, they studiously avoided the decision of the Fifth Circuit in U.S. versus Tampa Bay Garden of condemnation case, wherein this -- the Fifth Circuit had previously held, we do not think it necessary that we require, in applying the clearly erroneous doctrine, a special finding of fact with reference to each evidentiary conflict in the record.