The patenting process is essentially a judgement of the Land Office tribunal, serving as documentary evidence that:
Legitimate national obligations (compliance with international treaties and extinguishment of Indian occupancy) have been discharged so that national "interest" in the property can be quitclaimed;
The courts held that the operation of a patent as a deed was of the nature of a quitclaim to any interest as the United States possessed in the land; Beard v. Federy, 70 U.S. 478, 3 Wall, 478, 18 L.Ed.88. A patent to land of the United States constituted a full conveyance of title out of the United States; McArthur v. Brue, 67 So. 249, 250, 190 Ala. 563. The issuance of a patent divested the government of all authority and control over the land; Moore v. Robbins, Ill. 96 U.S. 530, 24 L.Ed. 848.
A patent passes to the patentee all interest of the United States, whatever it may have been, in everything connected with the soil and in fact everything embraced within the meaning of the term "land"; Damon v. Hawaii, 194 US 154, 48 L.Ed 916, 24 S.Ct. 617; Energy Transp. Systems, Inc. v. Union P. R. Co., (DC Wyo) 435 F.Supp 313, 60 OGR 427, affd (CA10 Wyo) 606 F2d 934, 65 OGR 576; Moore v. Smaw, 17 Cal 199; Hamilton v. Badgett, 293 Mo 324, 240 SW 214; Crawford Co, V. Hathaway, 67 Nob 325, 93 NW 781 (ovrid on other grounds Wassburger v. Coffee, 180 Neb 149, 141 NW2d 738, adhered to 180 Neb 569, 144 NW2d 209.
That all disputes concerning possessory rights have been adjudicated in (State) court;
For example, Section 34 of the Mining Act of May 10, 1872 (concerning challenges to an application for patent) states:
"It shall be the duty of the adverse claimant, within thirty days after filing his claim, to commence proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction, to determine the question of the right of possession, and prosecute the same with reasonable diligence to a final judgement; and a failure so to do shall be a waiver of his adverse claim. After such judgement shall have been rendered, the party entitled to the possession of the claim, or any portion thereof, may, without giving further notice, file a certified copy of the judgement roll with the register of the land office, together with the certificate of the Director of the Bureau of Land Management [that federal statutory requirements for labor, description and fees have been met] whereupon the whole proceedings and the judgement roll shall be certified by the register to the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, and a patent shall issue thereon for the claim, or such portion thereof as the applicant shall appear, from the decision of the court, to rightly possess..."
That any statutory requirements of "proving up" and paying any claim fees have been met.
Once requirements are met by the claimant, issuance of a patent is not discretionary.
Once the federal patent requirements are satisfied, and there is no question of legitimate national interest in respect to treaties or trusts, the BLM is compelled to issue a patent to a claimant in rightful possession. For instance, Pittsburgh-Pacific Corporation applied for patents to a dozen claims in the Black Hills National Forest, upon which it asserted a discovery of iron ore. At the request of the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management challenged the existence of a discovery. When the contest came before the Interior's Board of Land Appeals, the State of South Dakota participated and argued that the Bureau must prepare and environmental impact statement on the patent application. The board held the EIS was not required because patent issuance is not discretionary once Mining Law requirements have been met. [United States v. Pittsburgh-Pacific, 84 I.D. 282, (1977); Confirmed South Dakota v. Andrus, 462 F. Supp. 905, D.S.D.(1978); aff'd. 614 F.2d 1190, 8th Cir, cert. denied 449 U.S. 222 (1980.)]
Once a land patent is issued, it stands as the highest evidence of legal title.
A patent to land is the judgment of the Land Department and the conveyance of the title in execution of it to the party adjudged entitled, and, when the land described was in the jurisdiction and subject to the disposition of the Land Department, it is impervious to collateral attack; Neff v. United States, 165 F. 273, 277, 91 C.C.A. 241.
A patent is recognized as the highest evidence of title, conclusive against the government and all claiming under junior patents or treaties until it set aside or annulled by some judicial tribunal; United States v. Mullan, 10 F. 785, 792; Bayner v. Stanly, 13 F. 217, 223.
If other parties possess equities superior to those of the patentee, a court of equity will, on proper proceedings, enforce such equities; but in an action in the federal court in which the legal title is involved, the patent when regular on its surface is conclusive; Redfield v. Parks, 10 S.Ct. 83, 88, 132 U.S. 239, 33 L.Ed.327.
After issuance of a patent, any subsequent claim of the United States to titles therein or other disputes between private claimants must be determined by the courts; U.S. v. McKenzie County, North Dakota, D.C.N.D., 187 F.Supp., 470 affirmed Murray v. U.S., 291 F.2d 161.
Suits to cancel a patent could only be brought within the statute of limitations, except for actions brought by the U.S. government (1) to recover the value of lands fraudulently obtained; (2) to construe and enforce a patent as construed; and (3) to impress a trust of the lands for the rightful owner - U.S. v. Whited, 38 S.Ct. 367, 246 U.S. 552, 62 L.Ed. 879; Issac Walton League of America v. St. Claire, D.C. Minn, 55 F.R.D. 139, affirmed 497 F 2d. 849, certiorari denied 95 S.Ct. 329, 419 U.S. 1009, 42 L.Ed.2d 284.
The expression "patent," used in Act of March 3, 1891, Section 8, 43 U.S.C.A. Section 1166, requiring suits to annul patents to be brought within six years after issuance, means a grant of land from the government. (United States v. La Roque, 198 F. 615, 648, 117 C.C.A. 349.)
A suit to cancel a patent must be brought by the United States, and, unless by virtue of an act of Congress, no one but the attorney general or someone authorized to use his name, can initiate the proceeding, (U.S. - U.S. v. Throckmorton, Cal. 98 U.S. 61, 25 L. Ed. 93.)
A patent conveying land which was a part of the public domain cannot be attacked or impeached by a person having no interest in the land, (U.S. - Roberts v. Southern Pacific Co., 185 P. 934, affirmed 219 1022, 134 C.C.A. 685; see also Issac Walton League v. St. Claire.) Such a patent is subject to impeachment only by the United States, or its grantee, (Idaho - Johnson v. Hurst, 77 P. 784, 10 Idaho 308,) or a person who has succeeded to its rights, (Utah - Ferry V. Street, 7 P. 712, 11 P. 571, 4 Utah 521,) or by a person who was defrauded or deprived of his rights by the issuance of a patent to another, (Cal. - Mery V. Brodt, 53 P. 818, 121 Cal. 332.).