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Civil Resource Manual

7. United States Attorney General Opinion, July 11, 1894

21 U.S. Op. Atty. Gen. 50


[50] Revised Statutes, section 3469, does not confer power to remit or release any portion of a judgment indebtedness on considerations of hardship to particular individuals. The authority to 'compromise' relates to claims of doubtful recovery or enforcement. (13 Opin., 479, and 18 Opin., 72, distinguished.)



Your communication of the 7th instant to the Attorney-General presents a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States, in a proceeding under Revised Statutes, section 3207, has adjudged (United States v. Snyder, 149 U. S., 210) that for certain internal-revenue taxes assessed against one Snyder, the United States have a lien upon real estate in the city of New Orleans now owned by the International Cotton Press Company, which that company bought from Snyder after the lien had attached. The amount of the taxes is $3,463.29, with considerable interest. The International Cotton Press Company submits an offer to pay $50, together with all costs and expenses, in consideration of a [51] release of the lien, and the U. S. district attorney and the Solicitor of the Treasury recommended the acceptance of the proposition. You ask whether you can legally approve the proposed compromise under Revised Statutes, section 3469.

The petition for settlement and the recommendations in support thereof are not based upon doubts as to the possibility of realizing the amount of the tax out of the property, but upon the ground of the hardship to the company supposed to be involved in enforcing against it the laws of the United States as interpreted by the Supreme Court in a proceeding to which the company was a party.

I am of the opinion that section 3469 has no application to such a case. It provides that--

'Upon a report by a district attorney, or any special attorney or agent having charge of any claim in favor of the United States, showing in detail the condition of such claim, and the terms upon which the same may be compromised, and recommending that it be compromised upon the terms so offered, and upon the recommendation of the Solicitor of the Treasury, the Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to compromise such claim accordingly. But the provisions of this section shall not apply to any claim arising under the postal laws.'

The section does not authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to remit or release moneys due to the United States and clearly recoverable, but to 'compromise,' which implies a claim of doubtful recovery or enforcement.

In the case which you submit there is nothing to 'compromise,' for the right of recovery and the amount have been finally adjudged by the court of last resort, and the property is said to be sufficient to satisfy the debt.

These views are not in conflict with the opinion to which I have been referred, given to the Secretary of the Treasury on November 13, 1884, by Mr. Solicitor-General Phillips (18 Opin., 72), for that was the case of a claim with respect to which, although it had been reduced to judgment, there was, to use the language of the opinion, 'doubt whether anything more could be made;' nor with the opinion of Mr. Attorney [52] -General Akerman (13 Opin., 479), which seems to relate to a judgment open to be reviewed, and not to the final judgment of a court of last resort.