Arizona v. San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona

RESPONDENT: San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona
LOCATION: Dr. Simopoulos’ Clinic

DOCKET NO.: 81-2147
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 463 US 545 (1983)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1983
DECIDED: Jul 01, 1983

Jon L. Kyl - on behalf of the Petitioners in No. 81-2147
Louis F. Claiborne - on behalf of Respondent United States
Michael T. Greely - on behalf of the Petitioners in No. 81-2188
Robert S. Pelcyger - on behalf of the Respondent Montana Indian Tribes
Simon H. Rifkind - for respondent Arizona Indian Tribes
Simon K. Rifkind - on behalf of Respondent Arizona Indian Tribes

Facts of the case


Media for Arizona v. San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 23, 1983 in Arizona v. San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Arizona against the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona, and Montana against Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

Mr. Kyl, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Jon L. Kyl:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, during the floor debate on the McCarren Amendment, Senator McCarren stated to Senator Ernest McFarland,

"Let me say to the Senator from Arizona that there is no state in the Union more interested in this bill than is the State of Arizona. "

"In fact, all of the western arid and semi-arid states are interested in this bill. "

Of course, the reason Senator McCarren believed that the State of Arizona was interested in his bill is because as its sponsor he understood that the State of Arizona could utilize his bill for the adjudication of water rights, and yet we are before this Court 30 years later arguing about whether the McCarren Amendment applies to the courts of Arizona as well as the other western states.

These consolidated cases come to this Court on writs of certiorari to the Ninth Circuit, five cases from Arizona and seven cases from Montana.

In Arizona, state general water adjudications had been filed on the five major river systems in the state.

Within a month after service of process on some 12,000 defendants on the Salt River adjudication, five Arizona tribes filed separate actions for removal petitions in federal court, all on the same day, to enjoin any determination of their rights.

These were not suits to adjudicate water rights, but rather suits to prevent any adjudication of their rights.

Six weeks later, two other tribes and one in the first group filed separate federal suits to determine their rights only.

None of the federal tribal actions in Arizona have sought a general adjudication of water rights.

William H. Rehnquist:

Could one seek that in a federal court in Arizona?

Jon L. Kyl:

One could seek that in a federal court in any state, Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

None of the tribes, and the United States has not, none of the tribes have sought such an adjudication in the federal courts in the State of Arizona, and no party disputes that.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, what would be the basis of federal jurisdiction?

Jon L. Kyl:

This Court held in the Colorado River case that either under Section 1345 or... well, Section 1345 in that case, that a suit could be filed in the federal court for adjudication of water rights.

William H. Rehnquist:

For a statewide or streamwide adjudication?

Jon L. Kyl:

For a streamwide adjudication, yes.

And of course the Court in Colorado River held that the considerations of wise judicial administration that would be applied by the Court would determine whether the adjudication could go forward in the federal court or in the state court if there were concurrent proceedings and concurrent jurisdiction.

The key difference between that case and this case is that there there were general adjudications filed in federal court.

Here, there are none.

In the state adjudication proceedings that were in the meantime proceeding in Arizona on just the river systems which are before this Court, over 100,000 potential defendants were identified.

Over 70,000 have been personally served.

Claims have been filed, almost 7,000 separate claims, approximately one-third of them by the United States itself, and over $2 million has been appropriated to the Department of Water Resources to assist the courts in Arizona to determine these claims.

Warren E. Burger:

Do you suggest... How does that affect which court will decide the cases?

Jon L. Kyl:

Mr. Chief Justice, those are among the factors, the considerations--

Warren E. Burger:

The numbers I am speaking of.

The numbers.

Purely numbers.