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UNITED STATES v. THE SAN LEONARDO

November 18, 1942

UNITED STATES
v.
THE SAN LEONARDO; SAME v. THE VILLARPEROSA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CAMPBELL

CAMPBELL, District Judge.

These cases come before this Court on similar motions made in each case on the petition of the Alien Property Custodian, as follows:

"1. For an order substituting petitioner in all respects as a party herein in the place and stead of the Claimants.

 "2. That all claims, pleadings, motions or exceptions heretofore filed herein on behalf of the claimant be dismissed, denied and overruled as to the Claimant, but without prejudice as to petitioner; that the Claimant be adjudged without any right, title or interest in said vessel and that such right, title and interest, if any, as its Claimant may have had therein prior to the said Vesting Order be adjudged vested in petitioner, and that all claims, pleadings, motions or exceptions heretofore filed herein on behalf of the Claimant be ordered to stand of record for the benefit of petitioner, pending an opportunity to petitioner to amend, applement, or withdraw the same as petitioner may be advised.

 "3. That leave so to amend, supplement or withdraw the same be granted to petitioner, as well as leave to file such other claim, pleadings, motions or exceptions as petitioner may be advised.

 "4. For such other relief as may be just and proper."

 What the petitiioner, the Alien Property Custodian, seeks, is to be made dominus litis in each case, to the exclusion of further participation therein by the claimants.

 As the facts are substantially similar in each case, one opinion will suffice.

 The claimants, by their counsel, have answered the petition opposing the granting of an order which would in effect preclude them from further contesting the claim of the United States for forfeiture under the libels filed in the above entitled action.

 For an understanding of the reasons for my decision, a short statement of what are contended on behalf of the Alien Property Custodian to be the facts, and which are not substantially denied on behalf of claimants, is made as follows:

 In the Spring of 1941, certain vessels, including the said S. S. San Leonardo and the Motor Vessel Villarperosa, belonging to Italian and German steamship companies, were in American ports. Since the owners anticipated that these vessels might be requisitioned by the Maritime Commission pursuant to the Act of June 6, 1941, 46 U.S.C.A. note preceding section 1101, their officers and crews were specifically directed, either by the neval attaches of the embassies of the countries involved, or by the owners themselves, to perform acts of sabotage upon their own ships. Following these acts, the officers and crews of the vessels were arrested and tried, and in most instances convicted. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard took the vessels into protective custody, and thereafter the Collectors of Customs of the various districts seized them. Twenty-eight ships in all were thus seized. The twenty-ninth vessel, the Odenwald (rechristened the "Willmoto"), was salvaged by the U.S.S. "Omaha" after she had been scuttled on the high seas by her officers and crew. Later the United States filed its libels of information in causes of seizure and forfeiture, praying the condemnation of the vessels, including the vessels in question. The vessels were accordingly brought into the custody of the Courts of thirteen Federal Districts, including the vessels in question in this District. Subsequently, the use and possession of these vessels were requisitioned by the United States, through its Maritime Commission, under the Act of June 6, 1941, and on proper petitions this Court, and the other District Courts, by appropriate orders, directed compliance with the requisitions. The Courts assumed to retain custody of the vessels and jurisdiction thereover, despite their delivery to the Maritime Commission, by the process of causing the newly appointed Masters of the various ships to be designated Special Deputy United States Marshals. In all of the proceedings, claims were filed by the Italian or German owners, and subsequently other pleadings were, in some instances, also served and filed. In most cases these steps in the proceedings occurred prior to the declaration of a state of war between this Government and the German and Italian Governments.

 Upon this contention of the Alien Property Custodian, and on July 22, 1942, Leo T. Crowley, Alien Property Custodian of the United States, the petitioner herein, acting under the authority of the Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended, and particularly acting under Sections 5(b) and 7(c) thereof, 50 U.S.C.A. Appendix §§ 5(b), 7(c) and in reliance upon Executive Order No. 9095, as amended, 50 U.S.C.A. Appendix § 6 note, and pursuant to law, and having found upon investigation that the right, title and interest, if any, of the claimants in the various vessels were the property of nationals of a foreign country, designated in Executive Order No. 8339, as amended, 12 U.S.C.A. § 95 note, as defined therein, and that each of the claimants was an enemy as defined in Section 2 of said Trading with the Enemy Act, as amended, 50 U.S.C.A. Appendix § 2, not holding a license from the President, and having found also that the action about to be taken by him was in the public interest, thereupon demanded and seized, and declared vested in himself, all right, title and interest of the claimants in the respective vessels, including the vessels in question, to be held, used and administered, liquidated, sold or otherwise dealt with, in the interest of, and for the benefit of, the United States. The Vesting Order of the Custodian, which is numbered 52, has annexed to it, an exhibit, upon which are listed the names of the claimants, and the former names of the vessels which they claim. In this exhibit the names of the claimants are given as listed in Lloyd's Register, and also as the same appear in the claims actually filed in the various forfeiture proceedings, even though these latter names are in some instances misspelled and inaccurate.

 The libels in each of the above entitled actions were filed in the Clerks Office of this Court on the 16th day of July 1941, and claims were filed on August 14, 1941, by Loomis & Williams Esqs., Proctors for Compania Ligure di Navigazione, S.A., claimants of the S. S. San Leonardo in the first above entitled action; and also Proctors for Societa Commerciale di Navigazione, claimants of the M V S. S. Villarperosa in the second above entitled action, the claimant in ...


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