A-68399, DECEMBER 18, 1935, 15 COMP. GEN. 539

A-68399: Dec 18, 1935

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ACQUISITION OF STATE-OWNED SUBMARGINAL LAND - RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION PUBLIC MONEYS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE PURCHASE BY THE RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION OF SUBMARGINAL LAND FOR USE IN CONNECTION WITH AUTHORIZED PROJECTS. PROVIDED THERE VEST IN THE UNITED STATES A VALID FEE SIMPLE TITLE FREE AND CLEAR OF ALL ENCUMBRANCES AND THE OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AS TO THE VALIDITY AND SUFFICIENCY OF THE TITLE IS OBTAINED BEFORE PURCHASE. THE RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION IS ENGAGED IN DEVELOPING WITHIN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS SEVERAL APPROVED PROJECTS WHICH INVOLVE THE ACQUISITION BY THE UNITED STATES OF A CONSIDERABLE ACREAGE OF SUBMARGINAL AGRICULTURAL LAND. INCLUDED WITHIN THE AREAS OF THESE PROJECTS ARE A CONSIDERABLE NUMBER OF TRACTS.

A-68399, DECEMBER 18, 1935, 15 COMP. GEN. 539

ACQUISITION OF STATE-OWNED SUBMARGINAL LAND - RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION PUBLIC MONEYS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE PURCHASE BY THE RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION OF SUBMARGINAL LAND FOR USE IN CONNECTION WITH AUTHORIZED PROJECTS, TITLE TO WHICH HAS VESTED IN A STATE THROUGH FORFEITURES FOR DELINQUENT TAXES AND HAS BEEN CONFIRMED BY COURT DECREES ENTERED IN PROCEEDINGS BROUGHT PURSUANT TO APPLICABLE STATUTES, WHERE THE ACQUISITION INVOLVES THE PAYMENT OF ONLY A NOMINAL CONSIDERATION AND POSSIBLY COURT COSTS, PROVIDED THERE VEST IN THE UNITED STATES A VALID FEE SIMPLE TITLE FREE AND CLEAR OF ALL ENCUMBRANCES AND THE OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AS TO THE VALIDITY AND SUFFICIENCY OF THE TITLE IS OBTAINED BEFORE PURCHASE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE ADMINISTRATOR, RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION, DECEMBER 18, 1935:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 3, 1935, AS FOLLOWS:

PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORITY GRANTED BY EXECUTIVE ORDERS NUMBERED 7027 AND 7028, THE RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION IS ENGAGED IN DEVELOPING WITHIN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS SEVERAL APPROVED PROJECTS WHICH INVOLVE THE ACQUISITION BY THE UNITED STATES OF A CONSIDERABLE ACREAGE OF SUBMARGINAL AGRICULTURAL LAND, AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LAND SO ACQUIRED INTO FOREST, GRAZING, AND RECREATIONAL AREAS, AND REFUGES FOR THE CONSERVATION OF WILDLIFE.

INCLUDED WITHIN THE AREAS OF THESE PROJECTS ARE A CONSIDERABLE NUMBER OF TRACTS, TITLE TO WHICH HAS VESTED IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS THROUGH FORFEITURES FOR DELINQUENT TAXES, AND WHICH ARE PROPOSED TO BE ACQUIRED BY THE UNITED STATES UNDER THE FOLLOWING CIRCUMSTANCES:

ACT 181, MARCH 14, 1935, OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS (ACTS OF ARK. 1935, PAGE 490), A COPY OF WHICH IS ATTACHED HERETO FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, PROVIDES, IN EFFECT, THAT IN ORDER "TO COOPERATE WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IN ITS SUBMARGINAL LAND PROGRAM IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS" THE STATE LAND COMMISSIONER IS EMPOWERED "TO GRANT AND CONVEY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES, OR TO ANY DULY CONSTITUTED AGENCY THEREOF" ALL LANDS OWNED BY THE STATE OF ARKANSAS IN ANY AREA DESIGNATED AS A SUBMARGINAL LAND PROJECT WHEN THE STATE LAND COMMISSIONER HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY NOTIFIED BY THE PROPER AUTHORITY THAT THE PROJECT HAS PROCEEDED TO THE STAGE THAT IT IS NECESSARY AND PROPER FOR THE STATE TO EXECUTE AND DELIVER SUCH CONVEYANCES. SECTION 2 OF THIS STATUTE PROVIDES, IN EFFECT, THAT THE STATE SHALL CONVEY ONLY SUCH TITLE TO THOSE LANDS AS IT MAY HAVE, AND THAT IT SHALL NOT BE LIABLE ON ACCOUNT OF THE FAILURE OF TITLE TO ANY OF SAID LANDS.

ACT 296, MARCH 9, 1929 (CASTLE'S ANN.SUPP.ARK.STAT. 1931, SEC. 8362A-J), PROVIDES A METHOD BY WHICH THE STATE OF ARKANSAS MAY VALIDATE ITS TITLE TO LAND ACQUIRED BY DEFECTIVE OR INVALID PROCEEDINGS FOR FORFEITURE OF LANDS FOR DELINQUENT TAXES. SECTION 1 OF THIS ACT PROVIDES THAT WHENEVER ANY LAND HAS BEEN FORFEITED TO THE STATE FOR THE NONPAYMENT OF TAXES, AND THE PERIOD OF REDEMPTION HAS EXPIRED, THE STATE MAY FILE A SUIT FOR CONFIRMATION IN THE CHANCERY COURT PRAYING THAT THE TITLE TO SUCH LAND BE CONFIRMED AND QUIETED IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS. IN SUCH SUIT NO PROCESS NEED ISSUE, BUT PROVISION IS MADE FOR NOTICE BY PUBLICATION IN A NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED IN THE COUNTY WHERE SUCH LAND LIES, CALLING ON ALL PERSONS TO APPEAR AND SHOW CAUSE WHY THE STATE'S TITLE TO SUCH LAND SHOULD NOT BE CONFIRMED (SEC. 3). ANY PERSON CLAIMING ANY INTEREST IN ANY SUCH TRACT OF LAND MAY APPEAR AND HAVE HIS RIGHTS THEREIN ADJUDICATED (SEC. 6), BUT IF THE COURT ENTERS A DECREE CONFIRMING THE SALE TO THE STATE, SUCH DECREE WILL OPERATE AS A COMPLETE BAR AGAINST ANYONE WHO MAY THEREAFTER CLAIM SAID LAND IN CONSEQUENCE OF ANY INFORMALITY OR ILLEGALITY IN THE PROCEEDINGS BY WHICH THE LAND WAS FORFEITED TO THE STATE, AND THE TITLE TO THE LAND SHALL BE CONSIDERED AS CONFIRMED AND COMPLETE IN THE STATE (SEC. 9). THIS SECTION CONTAINS, HOWEVER, A SAVING CLAUSE GIVING TO "INFANTS, PERSONS OF UNSOUND MIND, IMPRISONED BEYOND THE SEAS OR OUT OF THE JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES, THE RIGHT TO APPEAR AND CONTEST THE STATE'S TITLE TO SAID LAND WITHIN ONE YEAR AFTER THE DISABILITIES MAY BE REMOVED," AND THE OWNER OF ANY SUCH LAND MAY, WITHIN ONE YEAR FROM THE RENDITION OF SUCH DECREE, HAVE THE SAME SET ASIDE BY FILING A VERIFIED MOTION THAT HE HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE PENDENCY OF THE SUIT AND SETTING UP A MERITORIOUS DEFENSE TO THE COMPLAINT UPON WHICH THE DECREE WAS RENDERED. SECTION 10 OF THIS STATUTE AUTHORIZES THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO APPOINT ATTORNEYS TO CONDUCT SUCH SUITS ON BEHALF OF THE STATE AND PROVIDES THAT SUCH ATTORNEYS SHALL RECEIVE AS THEIR COMPENSATION FOR SUCH SERVICES TEN CENTS PER ACRE FOR EACH TRACT OF LAND INCLUDED IN THE PETITION. THIS COMPENSATION TO THE STATE'S ATTORNEYS AND COURT COSTS INCURRED IN SUCH SUITS ARE TO BE PAID BY THE STATE LAND COMMISSIONER FROM AMOUNTS RECEIVED BY THE STATE FOR THE REDEMPTION OR SALE OF SUCH FORFEITED LANDS.

TITLE TO ALL OF THE LANDS PROPOSED TO BE ACQUIRED BY THE UNITED STATES FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS IN CONNECTION WITH THESE APPROVED PROJECTS HAS BEEN CONFIRMED IN THE STATE BY COURT DECREES ENTERED IN PROCEEDINGS BROUGHT PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF THIS STATUTE STATED ABOVE. ACQUIRE THESE LANDS, PAYMENT BY THE UNITED STATES OF THE TEN CENTS PER ACRE WILL BE NECESSARY, AND PERHAPS IN SOME CASES ALSO THE COURT COSTS REFERRED TO ABOVE. THIS SUM WILL BE MUCH LESS THAN THE APPRAISED VALUE OF THE LAND.

YOUR DECISION IS RESPECTFULLY REQUESTED AS TO WHETHER, ASSUMING THE FACTS TO BE AS STATED ABOVE, THERE WILL BE ANY OBJECTION TO THE ACQUISITION BY THE UNITED STATES FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS OF SUCH LANDS WITHIN THE AREAS OF THESE APPROVED PROJECTS, AND THE PAYMENT TO THE STATE OF COURT COSTS REFERRED TO ABOVE. YOUR OPINION IS FURTHER REQUESTED AS TO WHETHER IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO OBTAIN AN OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AS TO THE STATE OF TITLE TO SUCH LANDS.

IT IS UNDERSTOOD FROM YOUR LETTER THAT THE CONSIDERATION PROPOSED TO BE PAID TO THE STATE OF ARKANSAS FOR THE LANDS REFERRED TO CONSISTS ONLY OF THE SUM OF 10 CENTS PER ACRE PLUS, POSSIBLY IN SOME CASES, THE COURT COSTS REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER. ASSUMING SUCH TO BE THE CASE AND THE FACTS TO BE AS STATED IN YOUR LETTER, THIS OFFICE WOULD NOT BE REQUIRED TO OBJECT TO USE OF THE PUBLIC MONEYS INVOLVED TO PURCHASE THE LANDS REFERRED TO FOR SUCH CONSIDERATION; PROVIDED, HOWEVER, THAT PURCHASE OF SUCH LANDS WILL VEST IN THE UNITED STATES A VALID FEE SIMPLE TITLE THERETO FREE AND CLEAR OF ALL ENCUMBRANCES. IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, THE PURCHASE OF SAID LANDS AS PROPOSED WOULD NOT RESULT IN ACQUISITION BY THE UNITED STATES OF SUCH A TITLE THERETO, THERE WOULD BE NO AUTHORITY FOR THE USE OF APPROPRIATED MONEYS FOR PURCHASE OF THE LANDS.

WITH RESPECT TO THE TITLE, WHILE IT APPEARS FROM YOUR LETTER THAT THE TITLE TO THE LANDS HAS BEEN CONFIRMED IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS BY COURT DECREES ENTERED IN PROCEEDINGS BROUGHT PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF THE STATE STATUTE REFERRED TO IN THE FOURTH PARAGRAPH OF YOUR LETTER, IT APPEARS ALSO THAT THE STATUTE CONTAINS A SAVING CLAUSE IN FAVOR OF INFANTS, PERSONS OF UNSOUND MIND, ABSENT PERSONS, ETC., GIVING THEM THE RIGHT TO APPEAR AND CONTEST THE STATE'S TITLE WITHIN 1 YEAR AFTER THE DISABILITIES MAY BE REMOVED. IT DOES NOT APPEAR WHETHER AT THE TIME THE TITLE WAS CONFIRMED IN THE STATE THERE WERE ANY PERSONS IN INTEREST UNDER A LEGAL DISABILITY WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE SAVING CALUSE OF THE STATUTE. IF THERE WERE ANY SUCH PERSONS HAVING A POSSIBLE INTEREST IN ANY OF THE LANDS REFERRED TO IT WOULD APPEAR THAT SUCH CONDITION WOULD CONSTITUTE A CLOUD UPON THE TITLE OF THOSE LANDS IN WHICH SUCH PARTIES MIGHT HAVE A POSSIBLE INTEREST UNTIL THE LAPSE OF 1 YEAR AFTER THE REMOVAL OF DISABILITY, OR UNTIL THE ADJUDICATION OF THEIR RIGHTS, IF ASSERTED WITHIN A YEAR AFTER REMOVAL OF SUCH DISABILITIES.

WITH REFERENCE TO YOUR SECOND QUESTION, YOU ARE INFORMED THAT THE OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AS TO THE VALIDITY AND SUFFICIENCY OF TITLE TO THE LAND MUST BE OBTAINED IN CONNECTION WITH ANY PURCHASE OF SAID LANDS, AS IN THE CASE OF PURCHASE OF OTHER REAL ESTATE BY THE GOVERNMENT, AND THAT FUNDS THAT MIGHT OTHERWISE BE AVAILABLE FOR THE PURCHASE OF SAID LANDS FOR THE CONSIDERATION HEREINABOVE REFERRED TO WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE OF THE LANDS ONLY AFTER AN OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL HAS BEEN OBTAINED SHOWING A VALID FEE SIMPLE TITLE THERETO, IN THE UNITED STATES, FREE AND CLEAR OF ALL ENCUMBRANCES.