Lawrence County v. Lead-Deadwood School District No. 40-1

PETITIONER: Lawrence County
RESPONDENT: Lead-Deadwood School District No. 40-1
LOCATION: United States District Court House

DOCKET NO.: 83-240
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: South Dakota Supreme Court

CITATION: 469 US 256 (1985)
ARGUED: Oct 30, 1984
DECIDED: Jan 09, 1985

ADVOCATES:
A. P. Fuller - on behalf of Appellee
Alan Raywid - on behalf of Appellants
Louis F. Claiborne - on behalf of United States as amicus curiae

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Lawrence County v. Lead-Deadwood School District No. 40-1

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 30, 1984 in Lawrence County v. Lead-Deadwood School District No. 40-1

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Raywid, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Alan Raywid:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this appeal challenges the validity of a state statute which would alter and redirect the distribution of federal funds payable to local units of government paid for the presence of non-taxable federal land which are located within the jurisdiction of these local units of government.

The federal statute known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or its acronym, PILT, is perhaps a new concept of awarding federal funds for the non-taxable lands by conferring upon local communities, local units of government, the discretion of how these funds may be best spent to offset the impact caused by the presence of federal lands within their particular communities.

It is the result of years of careful study as to how most effectively to offset this adverse impact of federal lands.

And it substitutes prior programs of designated use, such as designation for school districts or designation of roads, to allow the discretionary use by these governmental units and with the only caveat that they be for any governmental purpose.

The program is rather broad.

It goes to 49 states.

William H. Rehnquist:

You described the second sentence in the statute, Mr. Raywid, as a caveat; a unit, and they use the payment for any governmental purpose.

You see that as a restriction on what the governmental unit may use it for.

Alan Raywid:

I'm glad you called me on that, Justice Rehnquist, because no, I do not see that as a limitation at all.

And "caveat" is the wrong word.

"Any governmental purpose" is perhaps redundant.

I think the purpose that that was placed in the statute, to show that it could go for the whole panoply of government services that a local unit of government could make expenditures.

Of course it couldn't... no unit of government can make unauthorized or discriminatory payments.

William H. Rehnquist:

They didn't need Congress to tell them that.

Alan Raywid:

They did not need Congress to tell them that.

I believe those words... and I'm glad you asked the question, because I think that merely underscores the breadth of discretion allowable to a local unit of government.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Raywid, the counties are creatures of state government, in a sense.

They are created by the state legislature to serve state governmental purposes.

Do you think that the state legislature in South Dakota could have passed a law that just told its counties they may not accept any federal aid, period?

Alan Raywid:

Perhaps the legislature could have declined altogether the federal aid.

This particular state statute, of course, is tiered upon and built upon the federal aid.

The federal aid precedes it by three years.

But in following your question, the state, of course, is sovereign.

The state created the counties, and conferred upon the counties particular authority.

It allows for elected officials; it allows for them to devise a budget; it allows them to make allocations between particular governmental responsibilities acting within that county.

Now, once having created such an entity under the state constitution of South Dakota, it cannot destroy that entity, except with popular vote.

But perhaps the state need not have created this county.

Having done so, and having conferred on it governmental powers, the state is obliged to respect those powers the same as anyone else.

William H. Rehnquist:

Obliged by what law?