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Alaska Steamship Co. v. United States

290 U.S. 256, 54 S. Ct. 159, 78 L. Ed. 302 (1933)

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Alaska Steamship Co. v. United States

United States Supreme Court

290 U.S. 256, 54 S. Ct. 159, 78 L. Ed. 302 (1933)

Facts

The Tucker Act required ships sailing between Ketchikan, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington, to transport seamen whose vessels had been shipwrecked in Alaskan waters. The statute authorized consular officers to issue certificates to the shipwrecked seamen, which the owners of the vessels transporting them could redeem for payment after transporting the seamen. Beginning in 1896, Congress appropriated funds annually for this purpose. The SS Depere, owned by the Alaska Steamship Company (company) (plaintiff) was wrecked off the coast of Alaska. There were no consular officers in Alaska; therefore, consistent with normal and long-standing practice, the ship’s crew was issued a certificate by the deputy customs collector of Alaska. The form for the certificate had been supplied to the customs office by the federal government. The crew was taken to Seattle on the SS Yukon, another ship owned by the company. The company attempted to redeem the certificate, but the United States (government) (defendant) refused payment. The company then sued the government for payment of the funds owed to it for transporting the crew. The district court found for the government, reasoning that the certificate was not valid because it was issued by the deputy customs collector and not by a consular officer. The court of appeals affirmed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stone, J.)

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