155 U.S. 389
December 17, 1894
The appellee sued in the court below to recover certain fees and clerk hire which he claimed to be due for services rendered as shipping commissioner at the port of Mobile from June 18, 1889, to February, 1890. The claim was for $1,607 and costs. There was judgment below in his favor for $75, being $25 a month for clerk hire during the months of December, 1889, and January and February, 1890. From this judgment the United States appealed.
Asst. Atty. Gen. Dodge, for the United States.
George A. King, for appellee.
Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the court.
The findings of fact in the court below were as follows:
December, 1889, paid salary of clerk, $25 $262 75 January, 1890, paid salary of clerk, $25 311 75 February, 1890, paid salary of clerk, $25 284 50
-Sir: From and after the 1st proximo the compensation allowed you under section 1 of the act of June 19, 1886, will not exceed the sum of one hundred dollars ($100) in any one month. If the services performed by you in any month do not warrant the payment of one hundred dollars under the existing regulations, your compensation for that month will remain as heretofore fixed. No pay additional to the monthly compensation herein mentioned will be allowed for your services as shipping commissioner.
C. S. Fairchild, Secretary."
The law governing the compensation of shipping commissioners is found in the acts of June 26, 1884 (23 Stat. p. 59, 27), and of June 19, 1886 ( 24 Stat. p. 79, 1). By [155 U.S. 389, 391] the first of these statutes (that of June, 1884) it is provided that:
And also that:
By the second statute (June 19, 1886) it is provided that:
We think it clear that the right of a shipping commissioner to employ clerks under these provisions depends on the sanction of the secretary of the treasury. Indeed, the act of 1884 expressly so says. The act of 1886, while making some changes as to the method of compensating the commissioners, specifically provides that the clerks of such commissioners shall receive such compensation as would have been paid to them if that act had not passed. If the last act did not repeal the act of 1884, the plaintiff could not recover without [155 U.S. 389, 392] the indorsement of the secretary of the treasury, since that act gives him the right to determine the number and the compensation of clerks to be appointed by the commissioner. If the act of 1884 was repealed by the act of 1886, the plaintiff was equally without the right to recover clerk hire, because under the act of 1886 the amount of compensation to be paid to the commissioner or his clerk depends altogether on the judgment of the secretary of the treasury, who is required by that act to certify that such services appeared to have been necessarily rendered.
The secretary formally notified the shipping commissioner in November, 1889, previous to the month for which clerk hire was claimed, that his compensation would be limited to $100 per month, and that no additional compensation would be allowed. When the vouchers were presented, including the items of clerk hire, the secretary approved them only for $100 per month. This allowance necessarily excluded the clerk hire.
The court below based its ruling upon the fact that, in approving the vouchers up to the amount of $100, the secretary made the statement that 'the services enumerated appear to have been necessarily rendered.' But this language of the secretary was that which the statute required him to use in affixing his approval. As he only approved up to $100, which excluded the clerk's pay, the language must necessarily be applied only to the services which he approved, and not to those which he disapproved. To hold otherwise would be to say that, although the secretary rejected the items for clerk hire, he yet approved them. The error below results from considering the secretary's certificate as referring to other services than those which he approved.
Judgment reversed, and case remanded with directions to render judgment for the United States.