CRS Annotated Constitution

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Special Acts Concerning Claims

This clause enables Congress to pass special laws to require other departments of the Government to prosecute or adjudicate particular claims, whether asserted by the Government itself or by private persons. In 1924,1678 Congress adopted a Joint Resolution directing the President to cause suit to be instituted for the cancellation of certain oil leases alleged to have been obtained from the Government by fraud and to prosecute such other actions and proceedings, civil and criminal, as were warranted by the facts.[p.344]This resolution also authorized the appointment of special counsel to have charge of such litigation. Private acts providing for a review of an order for compensation under the Longshoreman’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act,1679 or conferring jurisdiction upon the Court of Claims, after it had denied recovery, to hear and determine certain claims of a contractor against the Government, have been held constitutional.1680

Maritime Law

Congress may implement the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction conferred upon the federal courts by revising and amending the maritime law that existed at the time the Constitution was adopted, but in so doing, it cannot go beyond the reach of that jurisdiction.1681 This power cannot be delegated to the States; hence, acts of Congress that purported to make state workmen’s compensation laws applicable to maritime cases were held unconstitutional.1682


1678 43 Stat. 5 (1924). See Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263 (1929).
1679 Paramino Co. v. Marshall, 309 U.S. 370 (1940).
1680 Pope v. United States, 323 U.S. 1 (1944).
1681 Detroit Trust Co. v. The Thomas Barlum, 293 U.S. 21 (1934).
1682 Knickerbocker Ice Co. v. Stewart, 253 U.S. 149 (1920); Washington v. Dawson & Co., 264 U.S. 219 (1924).
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