Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States

PETITIONER: Colorado River Water Conservation District
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: A bank

DOCKET NO.: 74-940
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 424 US 800 (1976)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1976
DECIDED: Mar 24, 1976

ADVOCATES:
Howard E. Shapiro -
Kenneth Balcomb -

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 14, 1976 in Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 24, 1976 in Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

I also have to announce No. 74-940 and 74-949, Colorado River Water Conservation District versus the United States.

Section 28 U.S.C. 1345 provides that except there, as otherwise provided by Act of Congress, the District Court shall have original jurisdiction to all civil actions commenced by the United States in federal courts.

In invoking that section, the United States filed this action in a Federal District Court in Colorado for adjudication of reserved water rights in state waters, an action which the United States brought on behalf of itself and certain Indian tribes.

Shortly after the action was filed and before any proceedings beyond the filing of the complaint had occurred in the Federal Court, one of the defendants made the United States a party to a state court proceeding for the purpose of having the claims asserted in the federal action adjudicated in the state proceeding.

And that application was pursuant to another federal statute known as the McCarran Amendment which gives the consent to the United States, the state jurisdiction concurrent with federal jurisdiction over controversies involving federal water rights.

And thus this case presents the question whether, under the McCarran Act, this action falls within the exception to 1245 as an act otherwise provided by Congress.

The District Court thought so and dismissed the federal suit in light of the McCarran Act, but the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed the dismissal.

We disagree with the Court of Appeals in light of the McCarran Amendment and for reasons stated in an opinion on file with the clerk, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstate that of the District Court.

Mr. Justice Stewart has filed a dissenting opinion, not an illustrated one, in which Justice Blackmun and Justice Stevens have joined.

Mr. Justice Stevens has also filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Brennan.