Meeker v. Ambassador Oil Corp.

RESPONDENT: Ambassador Oil Corp.
LOCATION: New York Times Office

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 375 US 160 (1963)
ARGUED: Nov 19, 1963 / Nov 20, 1963
DECIDED: Dec 02, 1963

Facts of the case


Media for Meeker v. Ambassador Oil Corp.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 19, 1963 in Meeker v. Ambassador Oil Corp.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 20, 1963 in Meeker v. Ambassador Oil Corp.

Earl Warren:

Number 46, Charles A. Meeker et al., versus Ambassador Oil Corporation.

Mr. Adams -- oh Mr. Adams had finished his argument.

Mr. Thweatt.

C. Harold Thweatt:


Earl Warren:


C. Harold Thweatt:

Mr. Chief Justice --

Earl Warren:


C. Harold Thweatt:

-- may it please the Court.

If the Court in this case takes the view that this entire case should have been tried to a jury, we nevertheless submit that on the facts of the case, the denial of a jury trial was harmless error.

Now, I want to briefly relate the facts of the case, the -- a woman by the name of Hettie Lowder, who is in her 80s, owns a 240-acre farm situated in Logan County, Oklahoma.

In 1953, she executed a five-year oil and gas lease covering 160-acres in kind out of this 240-acre farm.

This lease by named assignment became owned by a man by the name of W. G. Haun.

Mr. Haun assigned the lease to Herman Hurst, reserving an overriding royalty of 1/16th of 7/8ths of all production and that assignment on its face provided that the -- this reservation was made applicable not only to that 1953 oil and gas lease, but also to any extensions or renewal of that lease.

The Meekers and Domestic Oil Corporation and other parties whose names are of no importance here, were -- became the owners of this oil and gas lease.

They had a block of acreage and we're going to drill on the Robinson farm which abuts on this Hettie Lowder farm.

The Robinson well on the Robinson farm was commenced in this five-year lease which didn't name to Herman Hurst but was actually owned by the plaintiffs here, Meekers and Domestic Oil Corporation, was about to expire.

So Mr. Hurst went to Mrs. Lowder and got a 30-day oil and gas lease, the primary term to commence after expiration of the existing lease.

That term was, I believe, had a term -- term of 30 days from July 3rd, 1958 -- I mean, from June 3rd, 1958 to July 3, 1958.

And that 30-day lease, now that's a regular form of oil and gas lease which provides that it shall endure for the primary term of the lease which was 30 days, and as long thereafter as there is production or under the Oklahoma law as long thereafter as drilling operations or operations on the lease are pursued with due diligence.

Well this -- during the last two days of this 30-day oil and gas lease, the Robinson well wasn't down yet.

They didn't know the results -- what the result of the Robinson well would be, so Mr. Hurst calls the location of the estate on the 30-day oil and gas lease, that is -- that's the initial operation of course for commencing an oil well, let's take the location.

He calls that to be done and there were $60 worth of bulldozer work done before the primary term of that lease expired.

The trial court found that there was a small circulating pit and roads that have been built.

There was no machinery of any kind moved on to the lease, nothing done, other than that little bit of bulldozer work.

But on July 22nd, now that reminds you that happened on July 2nd and July 3rd, that bulldozer work was done on that lease at 1958.

On July 22nd, a representative from Ambassador Oil Corporation went over there and surveyed the situation and found what had been done and -- and concluded that the -- the -- that lease had been abandoned, that there was no oil and gas lease covering that tract of land.

And he consult -- he consulted counsel about that and it was advised by counsel that in judgment of counsel, that 30-day lease had terminated and was dead.

So on July 22nd, Ambassador Oil Corporation procured from Hettie Lowder or bought from her an oil and gas lease which covered not only the 160-acres which is covered by the 30-day lease but also covered the other 80-acres.

In other words, it covered 240-acres and distinguished from 160-acres.

Arthur J. Goldberg:

What they pay (Inaudible)