PAYMENT OF CLAIMS

No officer of the Federal Government is authorized to pay a debt due from the United States, whether reduced to judgment or not, without an appropriation for that purpose.2009 Nor may a government employee, by erroneous advice to a claimant, bind the United States through equitable estoppel principles to pay a claim for which an appropriation has not been made.2010

After the Civil War, a number of controversies arose out of attempts by Congress to restrict the payment of the claims of persons who had aided the Rebellion but had thereafter received a pardon from the President. The Supreme Court held that Congress could not prescribe the evidentiary effect of a pardon in a proceeding in the Court of Claims for property confiscated during the Civil War,2011 but that where the confiscated property had been sold and the proceeds paid into the Treasury, a pardon did not of its own force authorize the restoration of such proceeds.2012 It was within the competence of Congress to declare that the amount due to persons thus pardoned should not be paid out of the Treasury and that no general appropriation should extend to their claims.2013

Footnotes

2009
Reeside v. Walker, 52 U.S. (11 How.) 272 (1851). [Back to text]
2010
OPM v. Richmond, 496 U.S. 414 (1990). [Back to text]
2011
United States v. Klein, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 128 (1872). [Back to text]
2012
Knote v. United States, 95 U.S. 149, 154 (1877); Austin v. United States, 155 U.S. 417, 427 (1894). [Back to text]
2013
Hart v. United States, 118 U.S. 62, 67 (1886). [Back to text]