California v. Nevada Page 2

California v. Nevada general information

Media for California v. Nevada

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 14, 1980 in California v. Nevada

James H. Thompson:

There is some question by California as to the legality of those private titles.

Byron R. White:

But there isn't anything like oil or minerals or --

James H. Thompson:

No, sir.

Nevada still --

Byron R. White:

-- taxes, or anything.

It is just sovereignty.

James H. Thompson:

Yes, sir, territorial sovereignty, the political integrity of the State.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

The Special Master's report wouldn't have any impact on private titles, would it?

James H. Thompson:

I don't think it does, particularly --

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

Even if we accept the Special Master it wouldn't have any impact on the private titles?

James H. Thompson:

Not according to Nevada. California and the United States have some question about it but I could find no parcel of land patented by both States, such as you had in Coffee v. Groover or Poole v. Fleeger.

I haven't found any parcel.

Byron R. White:

Would present landowners have to get their title quieted in California?

James H. Thompson:

Well, if the Special Master's line is decreed, this Court I remember in Maryland v. West Virginia that it was the duty of the law-making bodies of those two States to enact legislation validating the new found --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, what if we accept the Special Master's report, are there some more proceedings before the Special Master that have to go on?

James H. Thompson:

Yes, sir, he has made a recommendation that California be permitted to file an amended complaint in which the matter of titles and certain claims will be asserted against the United States by California.

I think Mr. Stevens will go into that.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

But you are not concerned with that, is that correct?

James H. Thompson:

No, sir.

We are strictly concerned with the movement of part of our territory to the State of California.

Congress can act, they can prescribe a boundary, they can establish it, they can set it.

But once it is done, they can't move an established boundary.

So you are back to the question did the joint survey establish the boundary between California and Nevada.

And, if it did, it is our contention that the United States has no power whatsoever to go out there and physically move it, to give part of Nevada, a significant portion of territory to California.

So the dispositive question really to be answered and indeed to be faced, because California won't face it, the Special Master did not face it, is did the Federal Government act under a power under the Constitution when it moved the posted boundary.

And that question has not been addressed and we submit that it has to be looked at and answered, you just can't go on acquiescence, because there is no --

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

I must confess I really don't understand the argument.

If the claim of right of California is it owns up -- it has sovereignty up to the 120th Meridian and if they thought they were claiming land up to the 120th Meridian, does it matter whether the survey was done by a private person who was misinformed or the United States Government or is California or Nevada --

James H. Thompson:

If it is first set on the ground and marked, that is the boundary.

Under the Constitution you would then have to go to the compact clause to move it or by suit in this Court.