U.S. Supreme Court United States v. West's Heirs, 63 U.S. 22 How. 315 315 (1859)
United States v. West's Heirs
63 U.S. (22 How.) 315
APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Where a grant of land in California was genuine, and issued by the proper authority, a fraudulent attempt to alter it by erasures and interlineations for the purpose of enlarging the quantity, made after California had been ceded to the United States, will not vitiate the original grant.
The book called Jimeno's Index is not an authoritative proof of grants enumerated in it, or as a conclusive exclusion of grants not so registered, but may be referred to as an auxiliary memorandum made by Jimeno officially while he was secretary.
The case is stated in the opinion of the Court.
MR. JUSTICE WAYNE delivered the opinion of the Court.
All of the documents upon which the defendants rely for a confirmation of their right to the land in dispute are to be found on file in the archives among the expedientes of the first class. Concerning the genuineness of those which show that a grant for a league and a half was originally made to Marcus West, there can be no denial. They were admitted by the Attorney General to be genuine, but he resists the confirmation of that title upon the ground that fraudulent attempts were subsequently made to enlarge the quantity intended to be granted by erasures and interlineations.
West first petitioned for the land, without stating the quantity. In a few days afterwards, General Vallejo certified that the land asked for was vacant and that it was not within twenty leagues of the boundary to California nor within ten leagues of the seashore. On the 30th of October, 1840, a report was made to the governor that the petitioner had the qualifications for receiving a grant and that the land might be granted.
Jimeno was then acting as governor ad interim. He declared West to be entitled to the land to the extent of a league and a half, describing particularly its boundaries, and he made an entry of his executive action in the case in what is termed Jimeno's Index.
We do not regard that catalogue of grants as authoritative proof of grants enumerated in it, or as a conclusive exclusion of grants not so registered, by Jimeno, which may be alleged to have been made whilst California was a part of the Mexican Republic, though they may bear date within the time to which that index relates. But in this case it may be referred to as an auxiliary memorandum made by Jimeno himself of his action upon the petition of West.
West died before the claim was acted upon by the United States commissioners.
We have only to observe that the fraudulent attempts to enlarge the grant were made after California had been ceded to the United States, and though the proof of it is undeniable and was an attempt to defraud the United States, that cannot take away from the wife and children of West their claim to the grant, which was made to him before California had been transferred by treaty.
We affirm the decree of the court below, confirming the grant to West for a league and a half.