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Huntt v. Government of Virgin Islands

decided: April 7, 1967.

LESLIE F. HUNTT
v.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS, APPELLANT



Kalodner, Hastie and Smith, Circuit Judges.

Author: Kalodner

Opinion OF THE COURT

KALODNER, Circuit Judge.

In this action by the plaintiff against the Government of the Virgin Islands ("Government") for specific performance of an alleged contract to issue its revenue bonds on behalf of the plaintiff for the construction of a hotel project on the Island of St. Croix in promotion of its economy, the court below granted specific performance of the contract. This appeal followed.

The issues presented are, in broad outline, whether the court below erred (1) in transcending permissible limits of judicial action in its Judgment decreeing Government's performance of the contract, assuming arguendo, existence of a contract, and (2) in ruling that a contract had been entered into by Government with the plaintiff.

This is the second time this case has been here. In 1964, we reversed the District Court's entry of judgment on the pleadings, which sought specific performance or in the alternative damages, in favor of the defendant, 3 Cir., 339 F.2d 309, 311, on our view that "a full record is necessary for the determination of the issues", and, "Assuming arguendo that it may be determined ultimately that the bonds could not be issued because prohibited by law, it does not necessarily follow that the plaintiff may not be entitled to the damages claimed by him in the alternative or some part of them."

In the proceedings following remand, the plaintiff, by amendment to his complaint, withdrew his claim for damages and sought only to compel specific performance of the obligations of the alleged contract, i.e., to require Government to issue its revenue bonds to finance the earlier stated hotel project.

Since the instant controversy has its genesis in the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, as amended in 1958, a resolution adopted by the legislature of the Virgin Islands and subsequent legislation, their consideration is essential before we proceed to resolution of the issues presented by this appeal.

The Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, as amended in 1958, in Section 8(b), 48 U.S.C.A. § 1574(b), authorized the Legislature of the Virgin Islands to "cause to be issued on behalf of said government [of the Virgin Islands] bonds or other obligations (1) for a specific public improvement or specific public undertaking authorized by an act of the legislature, and (2) for the establishment, construction, operation, maintenance, reconstruction, improvement, or enlargement of other projects, authorized by an act of the legislature, which will, in the legislature's judgment, promote the public interest by economic development of the Virgin Islands". It further provided that "Such bonds or obligations shall be payable solely from the revenues directly derived from and attributable to such specified public improvement, public undertaking, or other project. * * *"*fn1

Ostensibly pursuant to the authority granted by the 1958 amendment of the Revised Organic Act, the legislature of the Virgin Islands promulgated Resolution No. 147 on January 19, 1960. This Resolution recited that:

"Whereas Leslie F. Huntt and Associates are exploring the possibility of establishing a hotel, apartments, stores, offices, garages, and commercial space in the Virgin Islands * * * and

"Whereas the Legislature of the Virgin Islands considers that such facilities if established would promote the public interest by assisting in the economic development of the Virgin Islands; Now, Therefore

"Be it Resolved by the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, that the issuance of revenue bonds or other obligations pursuant to § 8(b) of the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands is hereby authorized for the purpose of establishing the facilities described above, providing specific plans therefor are approved by the Legislature, and providing that the development ...


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