B-132141, SEP. 18, 1957

B-132141: Sep 18, 1957

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REQUESTS REVIEW OF OUR DECISION DENYING YOUR CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION FOR SERVICES AND SUPPLIES ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN FURNISHED AMERICAN ARMED FORCES. BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A NATIONAL OR A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ARE NOT IN A POSITION TO KNOW THE DIFFERENT OFFICES OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT WITH WHICH YOU COULD HAVE FILED YOUR CLAIM. THE LAW TO WHICH YOU REFER IS PRESUMABLY THE ACT OF OCTOBER 9. THE ACT IS KNOWN AS A STATUTE OF LIMITATION. AS FOLLOWS: "* * * STATUTES OF LIMITATION ARE STATUTES OF REPOSE. THE OBJECT OF WHICH IS TO SUPPRESS * * * STALE CLAIMS FROM SPRINGING UP AT GREAT DISTANCES OF TIME AND SURPRISING THE PARTIES OR THEIR REPRESENTATIVES WHEN ALL THE PROPER VOUCHERS AND EVIDENCES ARE LOST OR THE FACTS HAVE BECOME OBSCURE FROM THE LAPSE OF TIME OR THE DEFECTIVE MEMORY OR DEATH.

B-132141, SEP. 18, 1957

TO MR. FRANCISCO CANLAS:

YOUR LETTER DATED JULY 10, 1957, REQUESTS REVIEW OF OUR DECISION DENYING YOUR CLAIM FOR COMPENSATION FOR SERVICES AND SUPPLIES ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN FURNISHED AMERICAN ARMED FORCES, DURING THE PERIOD 1901 TO 1902, BY YOUR FATHER, DOMINGO CANLAS, DECEASED. YOU STATE YOU BELIEVE, BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A NATIONAL OR A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES AND ARE NOT IN A POSITION TO KNOW THE DIFFERENT OFFICES OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT WITH WHICH YOU COULD HAVE FILED YOUR CLAIM, THAT YOUR CLAIM SHOULD NOT BE BARRED BY THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF OCTOBER 9, 1940, 54 STAT. 1061. FURTHERMORE YOU SAY THAT A LAW WHICH WOULD DEFEAT THE VERY ESSENCE OF JUSTICE SHOULD BE GIVEN SCANT CONSIDERATION.

THE LAW TO WHICH YOU REFER IS PRESUMABLY THE ACT OF OCTOBER 9, 1940, 54 STAT. 1061. THE ACT IS KNOWN AS A STATUTE OF LIMITATION. THE PURPOSE OF ENACTING STATUTES OF LIMITATION HAS BEEN SET FORTH IN 53C.J.S., LIMITATIONS OF ACTIONS SEC. 1, AS FOLLOWS:

"* * * STATUTES OF LIMITATION ARE STATUTES OF REPOSE, THE OBJECT OF WHICH IS TO SUPPRESS * * * STALE CLAIMS FROM SPRINGING UP AT GREAT DISTANCES OF TIME AND SURPRISING THE PARTIES OR THEIR REPRESENTATIVES WHEN ALL THE PROPER VOUCHERS AND EVIDENCES ARE LOST OR THE FACTS HAVE BECOME OBSCURE FROM THE LAPSE OF TIME OR THE DEFECTIVE MEMORY OR DEATH, OR REMOVAL OF WITNESSES. SUCH STATUTES APPLY WITH FULL FORCE TO THE MOST MERITORIOUS CLAIMS.' 53 C.J.S. LIMITATIONS OF ACTIONS SEC. 1.

THUS, IT MAY BE SEEN THAT THE PURPOSE OF SUCH STATUTES IS NOT TO DEFEAT BUT TO FURTHER THE CAUSE OF JUSTICE.

THE SECOND POINT RAISED IN YOUR LETTER IS THE CONTENTION THAT SINCE YOU WERE IGNORANT OF THE PROVISIONS OF THIS STATUTE YOU SHOULD NOT BE BARRED BY THEM. THE GENERAL RULE AS TO THE DEFENSE OF IGNORANCE OF THE LAW HAS BEEN STATED AS FOLLOWS.

"* * * EVERY MAN IS PRESUMED TO BE COGNIZANT OF THE STATUTE LAW OF THIS REALM AND TO CONSTRUE IT ARIGHT; AND IF AN INDIVIDUAL INFRINGE IT THROUGH IGNORANCE, HE MUST, NEVERTHELESS, ABIDE BY THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ERROR *

BROOM'S LEGAL MAXIMS, NINTH EDITION, P. 188. SEE ALSO WILBUR NATIONAL BANK OF ONEONTA, ADMINISTRATOR V. UNITED STATES, 294 U.S. 120.

AND AS TO STATUTES OF LIMITATION SPECIFICALLY:

"CONSTRUCTIVE NOTICE IS A LEGAL INFERENCE OR LEGAL PRESUMPTION OF NOTICE WHICH MAY NOT BE DISPUTED OR CONTROVERTED; IT IS NOTICE WHICH IS IMPUTED BY LAW. IN POINT OF LITERAL FACT, CONSTRUCTIVE NOTICE IS NEITHER NOTICE NOR KNOWLEDGE, BUT IS A FICTION BY WHICH, FOR THE PROMOTION OF SOUND POLICY OR PURPOSE, THE LEGAL RIGHTS AND INTERESTS OF THE PARTIES ARE TREATED AS THOUGH THEY HAD ACTUAL NOTICE OR KNOWLEDGE.' 66 C.J.S., NOTICE SEC. 6.

ALSO, YOU WILL NOTE FROM THE WORDING OF THE ACT OF OCTOBER 9, 1940, WHICH WAS QUOTED IN OUR PRIOR LETTERS TO YOU, THAT UNLESS A CLAIM IS RECEIVED IN THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WITHIN THE 10 YEAR PERIOD AFTER ITS ACCRUAL, IT IS BARRED REGARDLESS OF THE KNOWLEDGE BY THE CLAIMANT OF THE STATUTE.

FINALLY, YOU ASSERT THAT AS A NONCITIZEN YOU SHOULD RECEIVE SPECIAL CONSIDERATION AND SHOULD BE EXCUSED FROM COMPLIANCE WITH THE STATUTE EVEN THOUGH THE CLAIM OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN MIGHT BE BARRED. THERE IS PRECEDENT IN OUR LAW FOR GRANTING NONCITIZENS STATUTORY RIGHTS EQUAL TO AMERICAN CITIZENS WHERE THERE IS NO PROVISION IN THE STATUTE TO THE CONTRARY.

"A STATUTE AUTHORIZING A RIGHT OF ACTION * * * IN THE ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC RESTRICTION, WOULD NOT EXCLUDE ALIENS, OR PREVENT THEM FROM AVAILING THEMSELVES OF ITS BENEFITS.' ROMANO V. CAPITAL CITY BRICK AND PIPE, CO., 101 N.W. 437.

HOWEVER, WE ARE UNAWARE OF ANY RULE OF LAW WHICH WOULD GRANT NONCITIZENS GREATER STATUTORY RIGHTS THAN AMERICAN CITIZENS IN THE ABSENCE OF A SPECIFIC STATUTE TO THAT EFFECT.

MOREOVER, LONG BEFORE THE ENACTMENT OF THE ACT OF OCTOBER 9, 1940, THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT CONSISTENTLY DISALLOWED STALE CLAIMS ON THE BASIS THAT THE CLAIMANT HAS BEEN GUILTY OF LACHES, AND A PRESUMPTION ARISES THAT THE CLAIM WAS NEVER VALID OR THAT IT HAS ALREADY BEEN PAID.

IN CONCLUSION IT MAY BE SAID THAT THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE IS NOT AT LIBERTY TO DISREGARD ANY VALIDLY ENACTED STATUTE OF THE UNITED STATES; AND, THE COURTS HAVE HELD THAT A GOVERNMENTAL OFFICIAL LACKS POWER TO WAIVE STATUTORY LIMITATIONS ENACTED FOR THE GOVERNMENT'S BENEFIT. COMPAGNIE GENERALE TRANSATLANTIQUE V. UNITED STATES, 51 F.2D 1053; MAHONING COAL R. CO. ET AL. V. UNITED STATES, 28 F.2D 917, 53 C.J.S., LIMITATIONS OF ACTIONS SEC. 24. CONSEQUENTLY, WE ARE REQUIRED TO, AND DO, AFFIRM OUR PREVIOUS DECISION DISALLOWING YOUR CLAIM.

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