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from time to time to modify or revoke, subject to the approval of said board, such rules and regulations not in conflict with law as he may deem necessary to carry the provisions of this act into effect” (sec. 14). In addition, the act of March 4, 1911, ch. 241 (36 Stat. 1340), provides " that the Postmaster General
shall also from time to time make rules and regulations with respect to the deposits in and withdrawal of moneys from postal savings depositories and the issue of pass books or such other devices as he may adopt as evidence of such deposits or withdrawals, and the provisions of the act approved June twenty-fifth, nineteen hundred and ten, are hereby modified accordingly.”
I am satisfied that these broad grants of power are ample to justify regulations governing the determination of the proper claimant to the funds of a deceased depositor and the payment thereof to him, provided such regulations be reasonable, adapted to the discovery of the truth, and based upon the general legal principles governing the distribution of decedents' estates. Such regulations would be eminently calculated to carry out the purposes of the law and to make it more efficacious and beneficial. Indeed, they seem to be well-nigh essential.
In Boske v. Comingore, 177 U. S. 459, 470, the Supreme Court said, in regard to regulations made by the Secretary of the Treasury, under section 161, Revised Statutes :
In determining whether the regulations promulgated by him are consistent with law, we must apply the rule of decision which controls when an act of Congress is assailed as not being within the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution; that is to say, a regulation adopted under section 161 of the Revised Statutes should not be disregarded or annulled unless, in the judgment of the court, it is plainly and palpably inconsistent with law. Those who insist that such a regulation is invalid must make its invalidity so manifest that the court has no choice except to hold that the Secretary has exceeded his authority and employed means that are not at all appropriate to the end specified in the act of Congress.”
In Manning's Case, 6 Lawrence, 1, 13, Comptroller Lawrence said:
The payment of claims against the United States is a part of the business of the Treasury Department, and is, therefore, a proper subject for regulations. The Secretary has, by a regulation—which has been quoted in the argument in this case, and has the force of law-provided, that, in cases certified for payment to the Treasury Department by any commission created by Congress, the persons certified by said court or commission as the attorneys of record shall be regarded as such by this Department, and be entitled to receive the drafts in such cases."
And this regulation prescribing what person, as representing the claimant, should be entitled to payment from the Government was upheld by the comptroller.
To the same general effect is Savings Bank v. United States, 16 Ct. Cl. 335, 347, 349.
Such regulations expressly authorized by act of Congress have, when duly promulgated, the force of law. They fix the conditions on which the provisions of the act itself become operative. They delimit the field of the act's operation. In this aspect they are dealt with and sustained in United States v. Grimaud, 220 U. S. 506, 517, and a number of the earlier cases on the subject are there examined or cited. Hence regulations validly made under the express authority of the postal savings act may, in so far as the act itself does not otherwise provide, determine the conditions under which the United States will enter into the arrangement therein contemplated, including the persons to whom it will pay the deposit in the case of a depositor's death. The regulation, then, will define the terms and extent of the liability of the United States, and no other liability can be admitted against it, just as by section 3477, Revised Statutes, Congress defined the terms on which the United States will recognize the assignment of a claim against itself. As a rule, of course, on the death of the owner of a chose in action, his legal representative acquires an immediate vested right therein, and that legal representative is determined by the law of the domicile.
But here the regulation affects the right of the depositor before his decease, determines the conditions on which, the time when, the persons to whom, etc., the right shall pass on death, and it is only the right thus limited and defined which survives the death of the depositor.
If the right of succession to the depositor's credit on his decease were derived from his original contract of deposit with the United States, in all probability that right could not be affected by regulations promulgated after the deposit was made, unless the depositor knew of and assented to such regulations (K’imins v. Savings Bank, 141 Mass. 33, 36). But the postal savings act makes no provision for payment to any one but the depositor himself. Section 8 provides “ that any depositor may withdraw the whole or any part of the funds deposited to his or her credit * * * upon demand.” Evidently the right of any one, other than the depositor, to demand payment of the deposit, as representing the depositor, was left to be governed by regulation. It is significant that in the Senate report on the postal savings bill, in which report the necessity and value of regulations to fill in the details of the act are strongly insisted on, the English regulations are printed in full, and among them is one dispensing with administration on the death of a depositor. (Cong. Rec. 61st Cong., 2nd sess., P. 1265.)
It is clearly settled that there is no vested right to succeed to a person's estate, real or personal, before the decease of the owner. It is equally clear that there is here no contract right to such succession as perhaps would be the case were the deposits payable to the depositor or his legal representatives. Therefore, upon a subject within the legislative power of the Congress of the United States, as I must assume this to be, its enactments and any regulations made pursuant thereto are controlling, and fix the right of representation upon death as to choses in action which owe their whole existence to a statute of the United States.
I am, therefore, of the opinion that such a regulation as you refer to, relating to the payment of the accounts of deceased depositors, and providing a just, speedy, and inex
pensive method of settling them, would be valid. Perhaps it would be well to have the regulation printed in the pass book or otherwise brought to the notice of the depositor, and it would also seem wise, out of abundant caution, to have the regulation adopted by the board of trustees. Respectfully,
GEORGE W. WICKERSHAM.
THE POSTMASTER GENERAL.
EIGHT-HOUR LAW-LABORERS AT CUSTOMS PORTS.
The act of August 1, 1892 (27 Stat. 340), known as the eight-hour
law, includes in its scope such of the laborers employed at the various customs ports as are actually engaged in manual labor, and as to these laborers the act of March 15, 1898 (30 Stat. 316),
has not repealed the provisions of the said eight-hour law. The extension-of-hours act of March 15, 1898 (30 Stat. 316), applies
only to employees in the Departments at the seat of Government.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
June 28, 1912. SIR: I have the honor to reply to your letter of February 7, 1912, requesting my opinion whether, first, the act of August 1, 1892 (27 Stat. 340), known as the eight-hour law, includes in its scope laborers employed at the various customs ports, and if not, then whether, second, the act of June 25, 1868 (15 Stat. 77), is in force and is applicable to the employees mentioned.
I find it unnecessary to consider the second of these questions because, after a careful investigation of the subject, I am of opinion that the first question is to be answered in the affirmative, and that the eight-hour law does include in its scope the laborers employed at the various customs ports. In reaching this conclusion I have assumed that the “laborers” to whom you refer are not merely watchmen (26 Op. 622), but “laborers” in the ordinary sense, doing manual work.
The pertinent portion of the eight-hour law is as follows:
"An act relating to the limitation of the hours of daily service of
laborers and mechanics employed upon the public works of the United States and of the District of Columbia.
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the service and employment of all laborers and mechanics who are now or may hereafter be employed by the Government of the United States, by the District of Columbia, or by any contractor or subcontractor upon any of the public works of the United States or of the District of Columbia, is hereby limited and restricted to eight hours in any one calendar day, and it shall be unlawful for any officer of the United States Government or of the District of Columbia, or of any such contractor or subcontractor whose duty it shall be to employ, direct, or control the services of such laborers or mechanics to require or permit any such laborer or mechanic to work more than eight hours in any calendar day except in case of extraordinary emergency."
It has been suggested that this law does not apply to laborers not employed on “public works,” even though they may be laborers regularly in the general service of the United States; but this suggestion has been disposed of by several opinions rendered by my predecessors (20 Op. 459; 25 ibid. 441; 26 ibid. 605; 26 ibid. 30, 36; 26 ibid. 622) and by the Comptroller of the Treasury (4 Comp. Dec. 578).
In these opinions I concur, notwithstanding the dictum to the contrary made by the District Court for the District of Washington in United States v. Jefferson, 60 Fed. 736.
It is true that the title of the act appears to make the suggested limitation in its scope, but the history of the legislation and the punctuation of the body of the text seem to put it beyond question that the limitation was not the intention of Congress.
The original eight-hour law (R. S. 3738) contained no reference to “ public works,” but applied in terms to “ all