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Mr. WATERMAN, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted
(To accompany 8. 3068)
The Committee on the Judiciary, having had under consideration the bill (S. 3068) to amend section 355 of the Revised Statutes by authorizing the Attorney General to accept certificates of title or policies of title insurance in the acquisition of land or any interest therein by the United States, reports the same to the Senate without amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.
This measure proposes to reenact section 355 of the Revised Statutes as it now exists and to add thereto that portion of the bill contained in the proviso on page 2 of the bill.
The following letter of January 18, 1930, from the Attorney General shows the purposes and need of this legislation:
JANUARY 18, 1930. Hon. GEORGE W. NORRIS, Chairman Committee on the Judiciary,
United States Senate, Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN. You have had under consideration $. 3068 to amend section 355 of the Revised Statutes, which requires the opinion of the Attorney General upon the validity of titles of land purchased or condemned by the United States. The amendment is for the purpose of authorizing the Attorney General, in his discretion, to accept as a basis for his opinion upon the validity of the title a certificate of title or a policy of title insurance issued by a title or title-insurance company. I earnestly recommend the adoption of this amendment to the present law.
There has been delay in the acquisition of sites for public buildings, particularly in the District of Columbia, after the sites are selected and the request for condemnation or examination of the title has come to this department from the Treasury Department. The large volume of purchases and condemnations resulting from the public-building program, the acquisition of lands for flood control, wild-life refuges, and other public purposes, has overtaxed the capacity of this department to examine and pass the titles under the prevailing system.
I am making an effort to reorganize this branch of the work in this department 80 as to eliminate causes for delay. It is particularly desirable at this time that the public-building program should be expedited so as to stimulate business activity and furnish employment to those who need it.
A number of causes have contributed to these delays. One of them is the result of the necessity under existing law to obtain complete abstracts of title of property to be purchased or condemned and to have them examined in this department. The existing law requiring the opinion of the Attorney General upon the validity of titles has been construed to require him in all cases to base his opinion on an abstract of title running back into the dim past. Some of these abstracts are voluminous and it takes abstract companies weeks and months to prepare and deliver them, and a long time is consumed in the examination of them. In the case of the site for the new Supreme Court Building, several months elapsed after the date the Treasury requested condemnation before we could obtain such an abstract of title. I have personally examined the files in a number of cases where long delays have occurred resulting from these causes.
In some localities it is a common practice for private interests to rely on certificates of title or on policies of title insurance issued by reliable title insurance companies. Business men expend large sums in reliance on such titles. There are other localities where the practice is to rely on the examination of abstracts and where no dependable title insurance companies are available. It is not proposed that the present method should be generally changed, but only now and then where certificates or policies of reliable title insurance companies are available and great delay may be avoided by using them and the Attorney General is satisfied that the title insurance companies are dependable, and their methods careful and thorough, the authority asked should be exercised. Where property is being purchased the certificate or policy would be furaished by the vendor. Where the property is to be acquired by condemnation it is not proposed to expend the public moneys for premiums of insurance, but in such c uses at small cost certificates of title obtained from reliable title insurance companies might be used as a basis for ascertaining the names of the necessary parties defendant so that condemnation proceedings may be instituted promptly after the request is made by the Treasury Department.
The suggestion in opposition to this measure is that the Government may spend millions in the erection of buildings on some of this property and should not be satisfied with a mere guaranty or certificate of title by a title insurance company. That argument is plausible, but in my opinion it is unsound. A reputable title insurance company will not issue a certificate or policy without being itself satisfied as to the validity of the title. For that purpose it maintains careful records and employs competent title examiners. Where & certificate or policy is issued, it means that the title has been carefully and thoroughly examined by title examiners employed by the title insurance company. When a title is examined here in the department, it is examined by title examiners employed by the Attorney General. While our men are experienced and competent, we have no reason to believe that they are any more experienced, dependable, or competent than the examiners employed by substantial and careful title insurance companies. The result is that a title passed on the strength of a certificate or policy of title insurance has behind it as careful an examination of the title as we can make in the Department of Justice. The title insurance companies are able to save time because on each occasion when the title passes and they examine the title, they preserve the results of their examination, and on the next transfer they make only an inquiry for the period since their last examination.
It must also be borne in mind that the Government is under less risk than are the private business interests which rely on such certificates and policies. The Government in possession is not subject to an ejectment suit, and it is also armed with the power of eminent domain to save any loss of buildings by a condemnation of any adverse interest that develops.
I find that under date of March 28, 1928, my predecessor signed a letter on this subject, prepared by one of the title examiners here in the Department of Justice, advancing objections to a similar proposal. I have considerd all these objections, but can not agree that in all cases it is improper or unsafe for the Government to rely, as do private business interests, upon the work of careful and substantial title insurance companies. The file does not show that all of the considerations I have mentioned were brought to the attention of my predecessor, and I feel sure that if they had he would have agreed with me that under some conditions and with the exercise of proper care and judgment it would be proper to follow the practice authorized by the proposed bill. Respectfully yours,
WILLIAM D. MITCHELL,
Attorney General O
REPORT No. 680
DEPOSIT OF FEES AND EMOLUMENTS PAID TO UNITED
May 19, 1930.-Ordered to be printed
Mr. WATERMAN, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted
[To accompany H. R. 970]
The Committee on the Judiciary, having had under consideration the bill H. R. 970, relative to the deposit of fees and emoluments paid to United States marshals, reports the same to the Senate without amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.
The purpose and need of this legislation is shown in the following excerpt from the House report on this measure:
This bill is identical with the bill H. R. 9052, which passed the House in the Seventieth Congress, and its purpose and necessity is explained in the report accompanying H. R. 9052, which was made at that time by Mr. Hickey, of the Judiciary Committee, and which is as follows:
“The Committee on the Judiciary to whom was referred the bill H. R. 9052, after consideration, reports the same favorably with the recommendation that the bill do pass.
"This bill merely changes the law with reference to the deposit of fees and emoluments paid to United States marshals. The old procedure has been found cumbersome and the Comptroller General, as well as the Attorney General, recommend that it be abolished.
“The letter from the Attorney General recommending the enactment of this legislation and explaining the purpose of the bill is printed herewith and made a part of this report."
DECEMBER 5, 1927. The CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. MY DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: In a letter to me dated April 30, 1927, a copy of which is inclosed herewith, the Comptroller General suggests the desirability of legislation amerding section 6 of the act of May 28, 1896 (ch. 252, 29 Stat. 179), so as to authorize and require United States marshals to deposit directly with the Treasurer of the United States, an assistant treasurer, or some public depositary of the United States, public moneys collected by them, instead of, as required by said section 6, depositing such funds with the clerk of the court to be by the latter covered into the Treasury. The Comptroller General says:
“The procedure prescribed is cumbersome and does not appear in actual operation to give any effective check on the collections of the marshal, if such was the intention of the statute, and it is, therefore, believed that such collections should be deposited by the marshals in the same manner as other disbursing officers of the Government."
I am of the opinion that the proposed amendment is in the interest of better administration and have, therefore, caused to be prepared, and herewith transmit a copy of a bill to effectuate this purpose by amending section 6 of the act of 1896, effective July 1, 1928, so as to require all public funds coming into the hands of United States marshals to be deposited in accordance with the provisions of section 3621 of the Revised Statutes, as amended by section 5 of the said act of May 28, 1896; and I have the honor to request that you introduce this measure and endeavor to secure its enactment.
It will be noted that the Comptroller General's letter makes certain other recommendations for amendatory legislation affecting the accounts of United States marshals. I have written to you about these in a separate communication. Respectfully,
Attorney General. In order to substantially comply. with the rule requiring amendments to show the changes made in the old law, there is printed herewith as a part of this report section 6 of the act of May 28, 1896, chapter 252, which is in part repealed by this act:
“Sec. 6. That on and after the first day of July, eighteen hundred and ninetysix, all fees and emoluments authorized by law to be paid to United States district attorneys and United States marshals shall be charged as heretofore, and shall be collected, as far as possible, and paid to the clerk of the court having jurisdiction, and by him covered into the Treasury of the United States; and said officers shall be paid for their official services, which, in the case of district attorneys, shall include services in the circuit courts of appeals of their respective circuits wherever sitting, salaries and compensation hereinafter provided and not otherwise: Provided, That this section shall not be construed to require or authorize fees to be charged against or collected from the United States, except as provided by sections eleven and thirteen of this act relating to field deputies and their payments.”