Kleppe v. New Mexico


DOCKET NO.: 74-1488
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 426 US 529 (1976)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1976

A. Raymond Randolph, Jr. – for appellant
George T. Harris, Jr.
Randolph –

Facts of the case


Media for Kleppe v. New Mexico

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 23, 1976 in Kleppe v. New Mexico

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 17, 1976 in Kleppe v. New Mexico

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the court in two cases 74-1488 Kleppe, The Secretary of Interior against New Mexico and 75-382 the Federal Energy Administration against Algonquin and will each be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

The Kleppe case involves the constitutionality under the property clause of the Wild Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

The Act designed to protect “all unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States” from “capture, branding, harassment, or death,”.

Appellees, the state of new Mexico and its Livestock Board entered the public lands of the United States and removed 19 unbranded and unclaimed burros.

When the Secretary of the Interior demanded their return, appellees brought suit in the United States court for the district of New Mexico for injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the Act is unconstitutional.

A three-judge District Court held the Act unconstitutional and enjoined its enforcement.

We noted probable jurisdiction and in our opinion filed with the clerk today, we find that the Property Clause gave Congress power to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the public lands of the United States.

This clause is given an expansive reading for the power of the public lands does entrusted to Congress is without limitation.

We find that Congress can plead power over these lands including the power to regulate and protect the wildlife.

Contrary to appellees contentions the act does not impermissibly intrude upon the state’s sovereignty.

Rather Federal legislation and Property Clause necessarily under the Supremacy Clause, overrides any conflicting state laws.

We need not and do not address here the question of act’s permissible reach under the Property Clause over federally protected burros that stray on to private lands.

Therefore, the judgment of the three-judge District Court is reversed and the case is remanded for proceeding to be consistent with this opinion.