Basso v. United States

In Basso v. United States, 239 U.S. 602 (1916), suit was brought in the Court of Claims for the illegal arrest and imprisonment of the claimant upon a charge of having imported goods from the United States into Porto Rico without having made entry of the same under an act of Congress which the appellant alleged was not in force in Porto Rico. It was alleged that the court was without jurisdiction, and that, therefore, the trial, conviction and sentence of imprisonment deprived him of his liberty without due process of law in violation of the Constitution. The United States filed a general traverse of the petition, and subsequently moved to dismiss upon the ground that the court had no jurisdiction as the action sounded in tort. This motion was sustained in the Court of Claims, and an appeal taken to this court. Speaking of the contention of the appellant that the Court of Claims had jurisdiction, the Court said: "He, however, contends that the Court of Claims has jurisdiction under the Tucker Act over claims ex delicto founded upon the Constitution of the United States. And, this, he further contends, is supported by the recent decisions of this court, and relies especially upon Dooley v. United States, 182 U.S. 222 (1901). "But that case did not overrule Schillinger v. United States, 155 U.S. 163 (1894), which, counsel says, holds directly contrary to his contention and that he has not the ingenuity to suggest how the court can now decide the case at bar in appellant's favor without at least by implication overruling the Schillinger Case. We are not disposed to overrule the case, either directly or by implication. . . . "The Dooley Case and cases subsequent to it which are relied upon by appellant concerned the exaction of duties or taxes by the United States or its officers or property taken by the Government for public purposes. In such cases jurisdiction in the Court of Claims for the recovery of the duties and taxes or for the value of the property taken was declared. "In the case at bar (assuming as true all that is charged) there was a wrong inflicted, if a wrong can be said to have been inflicted by the sentence of a court legally constituted after judgment upon issues openly framed by the opposing parties both of fact and the applicable law, whether that law was 2865 and 3082 of the Revised Statutes or the Constitution of the United States. But conceding that a wrong was inflicted through these judicial forms, the case nevertheless is of different character from the Dooley Case, as was also the Schillinger Case. The latter case passed upon the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims in actions founded on tort and declared the general principle to be, based on a policy imposed by necessity, that governments are not liable (155 U.S., p. 167), `for unauthorized wrongs inflicted on the citizen by their officers, though occurring while engaged in the discharge of official duties.' And it was further said (p. 168): `Congress has wisely reserved to itself the right to give or withhold relief where the claim is founded on wrongful proceedings of an officer of the Government.' Gibbons v. United States, 8 Wall. 269, 275; Morgan v. United States, 14 Wall. 531, 534."