Procedural Posture

Plaintiff, the State of California, instituted suit against defendants to obtain a cancellation of a lease by the State to defendants of state prison grounds together with the convict labor. The State sought to obtain a surrender of possession of the prison, grounds, property, and convicts. The Seventh District (California) entered judgment for defendants. The State appealed.

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The State sought to cancel the lease on several grounds, none of which the court accepted as valid. First, the act that authorized the transfer of the convicts to private individuals was constitutional. The power over the whole subject of punishment for crime was vested in the legislature. The only limitation upon its exercise was the inhibition against the infliction of cruel and unusual punishments. Second, the lease contract was not defectively executed by the members of the California Board of State Prison Commissioners because they signed it with their individual names rather than with the name of the State. When a contract is entered into in behalf of the government by a duly authorized public agent, and the fact so appears, notwithstanding the agent may have affixed his own name and seal, it is the contract or deed of the government who alone is responsible, and not of the agent. Third, the right to rescind a contract rests only with the party who is without default. Fourth, no contract can be rescinded by one of the parties unless both can be restored to the condition in which they were before the contract was made. Finally, he who seeks equity must do equity.


The court affirmed the judgment of the lower court.