Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Pueblo of Santa Ana

PETITIONER: Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co.
RESPONDENT: Pueblo of Santa Ana
LOCATION: Lombardy Market

DOCKET NO.: 84-262
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 472 US 237 (1985)
ARGUED: Feb 20, 1985
DECIDED: Jun 10, 1985

ADVOCATES:
Kathryn Marie Krause - on behalf of the Petitioner
Scott E. Borg - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Pueblo of Santa Ana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 20, 1985 in Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Pueblo of Santa Ana

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Mountain States Telephone Company against Pueblo.

Ms. Krause, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Kathryn Marie Krause:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

For over 50 years Section 17 of the Pueblo Lands Act was considered to authorize the public conveyance of a right-of-way across their lands, provided only that that conveyance was approved by the Secretary of the Interior.

No further congressional authorization or legislation was deemed necessary.

That was the interpretation of the Department of Interior.

It was based on the language of Section 17 and it was an interpretation that was put into practice and concurred in by the Pueblos.

The Department of Interior practice resulted in over 60 grants of rights-of-way across the lands of the Pueblos in the State of New Mexico and spanned a period of time of over 30 years.

Mountain Bell holds such a Section 17 right-of-way.

It was granted to it by the Respondent Pueblo Santa Ana in 1928.

It was approved that same year by the Secretary of the Interior.

Prior to 1928, in the fall of 1927, Mountain Bell was named in a quiet title action that had been brought under Section 3 of the Pueblo Lands Act.

That action was styled United States of America as guardian for the Pueblo of Santa Ana versus Charles Brown.

The complaint alleged that the Defendants held right titles and interests to the lands of the Pueblos or at least claimed such interest and asked that those interests be declared null and void.

The complaint also alleged that the Defendants were trespassing across the property of the Pueblo and asked that the trespass be enjoined by an injunction.

Mountain Bell was dismissed from that lawsuit.

It secured a right-of-way from the Pueblo in February of 1928 and within six weeks the legal representative representing the Pueblos moved to dismissed Mountain Bell from the Brown action on the grounds that since the institution of the suit Mountain Bell had secured good and sufficient title to its right-of-way over the premises and controversy under Section 17 of the Pueblo Lands Act.

The order of dismissal by the District Court Judge recited substantially similar statements.

In 1980, the Pueblo of Santa Ana sued Mountain Bell again.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Ms. Krause, am I correct, however, no answer was ever filed in that suit?

Kathryn Marie Krause:

You are right, Justice Blackmun, there was no answer filed.

In 1980, the Pueblo again sued Mountain Bell, arguing that Mountain Bell was in trespass.

John Paul Stevens:

Before you leave your earlier suit, may I just ask this question about it?

Do you contend that that suit adjudicated the right of Mountain Bell at the time the suit was filed or at the time the suit was dismissed?

Kathryn Marie Krause:

I am sorry, Justice Stevens--

John Paul Stevens:

In other words, you claim that was an adjudication that Mountain Bell had previously acquired the right-of-way or that it was an adjudication that the conveyance that was approved by the Secretary of Interior was a valid conveyance?

What did they decide?

You rely on res judicata.

Kathryn Marie Krause:

--That is right.

John Paul Stevens:

What is it that you say they decided?