California v. Sierra Club

LOCATION:White House

DOCKET NO.: 79-1252
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 287 (1981)
ARGUED: Jan 21, 1981
DECIDED: Apr 28, 1981

Elinor Hadley Stillman –
John B. Clark – for respondents Sierra Club, et al.
Roderick Eugene Walston –

Facts of the case


Media for California v. Sierra Club

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 21, 1981 in California v. Sierra Club

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 28, 1981 in California v. Sierra Club

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in State of California against Sierra Club and the consolidated case will be announced by Mr. Justice White.

Byron R. White:

Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act statute which dates from 1899 forbids any obstructions to any of the navigable waters of the United States unless the obstruction is specifically approved by Congress.

This action began when various private plaintiffs sought an injunction in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California claiming that Section 10 would be violated by various water storage and transportation projects that would be part of the California Water Project and that would serve to bring water from Northern California to the Central and Southern parts of the state.

A threshold issue was whether or not Section 10 affords private parties a cause of action to remedy alleged violations of the proscriptions of the statute.

Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals held that Section 10 did afford such a private relief.

We are unanimously of the contrary opinion and our reasons for being of this view and for reversing the judgment of the Court of Appeals are stated in an opinion for the Court that I have filed expressing the views of five justices and a concurring opinion filed by Mr. Justice Stevens.

And in a — an opinion concurring the judgment filed by Mr. Justice Rehnquist who is joined by the Chief Justice and Justice’s Stewart and Powell, and because we — of our ruling on the private cause of action which we have no occasion to reach the merits despite the request that we do so.

So the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice White.