Arkansas v. Tennessee

LOCATION: 17th Judicial Circuit Green County Alabama Jury Commission

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 397 US 88 (1970)
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1970
DECIDED: Feb 25, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Arkansas v. Tennessee

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1970 in Arkansas v. Tennessee

Warren E. Burger:

33, brought from the original jurisdiction of the Court, the State of Arkansas against the State of Tennessee.

Proceed whenever you're ready Mr. Langston but we'll wait until you have your papers all assembled.

Don Langston:

May it please the Court.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Langston.

Don Langston:

This is an original action brought by the State of Arkansas against the State of Tennessee under constitutional provision for original actions boundary disputes between states.

The case reaches here on a motion, or leave to file a complaint, statement and support of the complaint, statement and support of the motion and complaint filed by the State of Arkansas against the State of Tennessee.

The Court accepted the case and appointed a Senior District Judge from the State of Minnesota, the Hon.

Gunnar Nordbye to set as a Special Master in this case, a hearing was held in Memphis, Tennessee in August and September of 1968.

The Master entered its report finding against the interest of the State of Arkansas and the case now comes before this Court on exceptions filed by the State of Arkansas to that report and our brief in support thereof.

As a preliminary statement concerning this case, when this case came to the attention of the State of Arkansas, we hired a special counsel, George Cracraft of Helena who is a specialist in this type of field concerning river boundaries.

In Arkansas, there are a few specialist in this and we felt that he was specially qualified to handle this case.

However, after the case was tried and it was briefed to the Master, Mr. Cracraft was elected as a Chancery Judge in 1968 and began his term in August of 1969.

We felt that Mr. Cracraft would handle this case for us here before this Court but we discovered a constitutional provision in Arkansas, which is Article 7 Section 25, which prohibit our judges to practice in lo and behold state and federal courts.

The area -- to move on, the area in controversy between the States of Arkansas and Tennessee comprised some 5,000 acres and lies physically on the west bank or the Arkansas side of the main channel, and according to all the evidence that was introduced before the Master, it has been there for at least -- as long as any witness who was presented could recall.

When the matter came to the attention of the State of Arkansas upon the complain of its citizens who lived in Crittenden County adjacent to this area and who had sensed the memory of any particular witness, these citizens had been in possession and control of it to the full extent of which the land was capable of possession.

These people had at various times and places who made the crops, engaged in husbandry of other sorts of raising cattle, hogs and horses on the property, and at from time to time severed, cut and removed valuable timber from the land assessing this land and paying severance taxes to the State of Arkansas and --

Potter Stewart:

Are there any residents or any residential buildings on the properties on that area?

Don Langston:

No Your Honor.

There had been some but they have long since been removed.

Hugo L. Black:

What is its value?

Don Langston:

Close to half million dollars, I believe Your Honor.

Hugo L. Black:

I mean, what -- its valuable quality, what are its valuable qualities?

Don Langston:

It can be farmed with row crops and it has very much timber on it Your Honor.

Hugo L. Black:

What kind of timber?

Don Langston:

Just hardwood timber and things of that nature that will grow and low type areas of the Alluvial Valley of the Mississippi River.

Hugo L. Black:

Anyone been farming it?

Don Langston:

Parts of it are being farmed as crops.

It has been used for crops and so it remains in that type of thing.

Hugo L. Black:

How far from the Arkansas side of the river?

Don Langston:

It's attached to the Arkansas side of the river.