A-1422, OCTOBER 17, 1924, 4 COMP. GEN. 386

A-1422: Oct 17, 1924

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PAYMENT FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES RENDERED IN FURNISHING LEGAL OPINIONS AS TO THE VALIDITY OF TITLES TO LANDS IS NOT AUTHORIZED. A CLAIM FOR CLERICAL SERVICE IN SEARCHING PUBLIC RECORDS AND PREPARING THEREFROM ABSTRACTS OF TITLE TO LANDS IN THE RARITAN ARSENAL RESERVATION MAY NOT BE ALLOWED WHERE DUE TO INACCURACIES THE ABSTRACTS WERE PRACTICALLY WORTHLESS AND IT WAS NECESSARY THAT THE RECORDS BE REEXAMINED AND NEW ABSTRACTS PREPARED. THE ACTION OF THE APPRAISAL SECTION OF THE WAR CLAIMS BOARD OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT IN ADJUDICATING A CLAIM FOR PERSONAL SERVICES RENDERED THE UNITED STATES IMPOSES NO LIABILITY ON THE UNITED STATES AND IS NOT BINDING UPON THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE. 1924: THERE IS BEFORE THIS OFFICE FOR CONSIDERATION CLAIM OF C.

A-1422, OCTOBER 17, 1924, 4 COMP. GEN. 386

PERSONAL SERVICES--- ATTORNEYS AS SECTION 189, REVISED STATUTES, PROHIBITS THE EMPLOYMENT OF ATTORNEYS OR COUNSEL AT THE EXPENSE OF THE UNITED STATES, PAYMENT FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES RENDERED IN FURNISHING LEGAL OPINIONS AS TO THE VALIDITY OF TITLES TO LANDS IS NOT AUTHORIZED. A CLAIM FOR CLERICAL SERVICE IN SEARCHING PUBLIC RECORDS AND PREPARING THEREFROM ABSTRACTS OF TITLE TO LANDS IN THE RARITAN ARSENAL RESERVATION MAY NOT BE ALLOWED WHERE DUE TO INACCURACIES THE ABSTRACTS WERE PRACTICALLY WORTHLESS AND IT WAS NECESSARY THAT THE RECORDS BE REEXAMINED AND NEW ABSTRACTS PREPARED. THE ACTION OF THE APPRAISAL SECTION OF THE WAR CLAIMS BOARD OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT IN ADJUDICATING A CLAIM FOR PERSONAL SERVICES RENDERED THE UNITED STATES IMPOSES NO LIABILITY ON THE UNITED STATES AND IS NOT BINDING UPON THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE.

DECISION BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL, OCTOBER 17, 1924:

THERE IS BEFORE THIS OFFICE FOR CONSIDERATION CLAIM OF C. W. WEYGAND FOR $1,473.78 ALLEGED TO BE DUE HIM FOR SERVICES RENDERED THE WAR DEPARTMENT IN 1918 IN SEARCHING PUBLIC RECORDS AND PREPARING THEREFROM ABSTRACTS OF TITLE TO LANDS INCLUDED IN THE RARITAN ARSENAL RESERVATION, FOR PREPARING AND DELIVERING LEGAL OPINIONS ON SAID TITLES, AND FOR OTHER SERVICES OF A PROFESSIONAL NATURE.

THE FACTS GIVING RISE TO THE CLAIM MAY BE SUMMARIZED AS FOLLOWS:

THE GOVERNMENT HAVING REQUISITIONED CERTAIN LANDS FOR THE RARITAN ARSENAL IN NEW JERSEY, THE FIDELITY TRUST CO. OF NEWARK WAS EMPLOYED TO MAKE ABSTRACTS OF TITLE TO SAID LAND. AFTER THIS COMPANY HAD COMPLETED APPROXIMATELY ONE-HALF OF THE WORK THE CLAIMANT WAS EMPLOYED TO COMPLETE IT, AN INFORMAL AGREEMENT BEING MADE WITH HIM BY LIEUT. J. H. M. ANDREWS, BY WHICH HE WAS TO BE PAID THE SUM OF $6,000 FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE WORK INVOLVED. AT THE TIME THIS AGREEMENT WAS MADE IT WAS CONTEMPLATED THAT A FORMAL CONTRACT WOULD BE EXECUTED, AND SUCH A CONTRACT WAS PREPARED AND FORWARDED TO THE CLAIMANT FOR SIGNATURE. HE DECLINED TO SIGN THE CONTRACT, AND UPON THE REFUSAL OF THE GOVERNMENT TO EXECUTE AN ALTERNATIVE CONTRACT PREPARED BY HIM HE ABANDONED THE WORK, WHICH WAS COMPLETED FOR THE GOVERNMENT BY OTHER AGENCIES.

MR. WEYGAND SUBSEQUENTLY FILED WITH THE WAR DEPARTMENT A CLAIM FOR $3,192.39 FOR THE SERVICES PERFORMED BY HIM PRIOR TO HIS ABANDONMENT OF THE WORK, WHICH WAS CONSIDERED BY THE APPRAISAL SECTION OF THE WAR CLAIMS BOARD ACTING UNDER THE AUTHORITY CONFERRED BY GENERAL ORDERS NO. 30, W.D., 1918, AS AMENDED BY GENERAL ORDERS NO. 41, W.D., 1919, AND GENERAL ORDERS NO. 40, 1920, AND THE SUM OF $1,473.78 AWARDED HIM AS A FULL AND COMPLETE SETTLEMENT OF HIS CLAIM AGAINST THE UNITED STATES FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES RENDERED IN SEARCHING PUBLIC RECORDS AND PREPARING THEREFROM ABSTRACT OF TITLE TO LAND INCLUDED IN THE RARITAN ARSENAL RESERVATION, FOR PREPARING AND DELIVERING LEGAL OPINIONS ON SAID TITLES, AND FOR ANY AND ALL OTHER SERVICES OF A PROFESSIONAL NATURE RENDERED TO THE UNITED STATES IN CONNECTION WITH THE WORK ABOVE OUTLINED.

THE CLAIMANT AT FIRST REFUSED TO ACCEPT THE AMOUNT AWARDED BUT UPON HIS DECISION LATER TO ACCEPT IT THE MATTER WAS REFERRED TO THIS OFFICE FOR SETTLEMENT.

THE APPRAISAL SECTION OF THE WAR CLAIMS BOARD UNDER THE LAW AND GENERAL ORDERS CREATING IT WAS WITHOUT AUTHORITY TO CONSIDER AND ADJUST CLAIMS FOR PERSONAL SERVICES AND ITS FINDINGS AND DECISION IMPOSED NO LIABILITY ON THE UNITED STATES AND ARE NOT BINDING UPON THIS OFFICE WHICH UNDER THE LAW IS CHARGED WITH THE SETTLEMENT OF CLAIMS FOR OR AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.

SINCE THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN LIEUTENANT ANDREWS AND THE CLAIMANT WAS NOT EXECUTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 3744, REVISED STATUTES, THE GOVERNMENT, IF LIABLE AT ALL, IS ONLY LIABLE ON A QUANTUM MERUIT FOR THE VALUE OF THE SERVICES RECEIVED.

UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 189, REVISED STATUTES, THE EMPLOYMENT OF ATTORNEYS OR COUNSEL AT THE EXPENSE OF THE UNITED STATES IS PROHIBITED AND NO ALLOWANCE CAN BE MADE FOR THE PREPARATION OF LEGAL OPINIONS OR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES RENDERED. THIS LEAVES ONLY FOR DETERMINATION THE VALUE OF THE CLERICAL WORK IN THE PREPARATION OF THE ABSTRACTS OF TITLE. THIS VALUE IS NOT THE COST TO THE CLAIMANT BUT THEIR WORTH TO THE GOVERNMENT. THE EVIDENCE ON FILE SHOWS THAT THE ABSTRACTS PREPARED AND DELIVERED TO THE GOVERNMENT WERE SO INACCURATE AS TO BE PRACTICALLY WORTHLESS AND THAT IT WAS NECESSARY TO HAVE THE RECORDS REEXAMINED AND NEW ABSTRACTS PREPARED. THIS IS SUFFICIENT TO DISPOSE OF THE MATTER, BUT IT MAY ALSO BE STATED THAT AGAINST ANY SUCH CLAIM AS THE PARTY MAY ASSERT AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, IT WOULD BE PROPER FOR THE UNITED STATES TO SHOW THE INCREASED COST, LOSS, AND DAMAGE TO IT BY CLAIMANT'S ABANDONMENT OF THE WORK. SUCH ABANDONMENT MADE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES STATED IS NOT TO THE CREDIT OF CLAIMANT AND NEGATIVES ANY LEGAL CLAIM AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.