Parsons v. Smith

LOCATION: Union Station

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 359 US 215 (1959)
ARGUED: Mar 04, 1959
DECIDED: Apr 06, 1959

Facts of the case


Media for Parsons v. Smith

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 04, 1959 (Part 2) in Parsons v. Smith

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 04, 1959 (Part 1) in Parsons v. Smith

Earl Warren:

Number 218, Emory W. Parsons, et al., Petitioners, versus Francis R. Smith, Former Collector of Internal Revenue for the First District of Pennsylvania.

And Number 305, George Huss, et al., Petitioners, versus Francis R. Smith, etcetera.

Mr. McDowell you may proceed.

Sherwin T. McDowell:

May it please the Court.

In view of the consolidation of these cases, counsel for the petitioners have agreed that each will speak for 25 minutes, reserving with the permission of the Court 10 minutes of the allotted time for rebuttal argument after respondent presents his case which will be made by Mr. Berger.

These cases involved the right of coal operator --

Earl Warren:

I suggest you keep track of your own time --

Sherwin T. McDowell:

Yes, sir.

I understand that we have.

Earl Warren:

-- because we can't do that for you.

Sherwin T. McDowell:

Thank you, sir.

These cases involved the right of coal operators engaged in the business of strip mining coal to present its depletion under the Internal Revenue Code.

This is not only the first case involving strip miners to come before the Court, but to our knowledge, it is the first case ever to come before this Court in which the right of the person actually producing the minerals to depletion was ever challenged.

The facts in both cases are essentially the same.

I will state the facts in the Parsons case and due to the extent there are differences, Mr. Berger will state them in the Huss case.

Perhaps it would be helpful to consider briefly the operation known as "strip mining."

A strip miner mines from the surface of the earth.

Unlike a deep miner, he does not drive shafts into the earth to reach the coal.

Basically, the operation is performed by removing the earth which lies over the coal known as "overburden."

This overburden is removed by making massive cuts in the earth.

The overburden from one cut being deposited into the adjacent cut from which the coal has already been removed.

The operation resembles to a degree plowing a field except that the furrows may be as much as 200 feet deep.

Strip mining of course, is feasible only where the coal does not lie at too great a depth beneath the surface, and also the thickness of the seam of coal has a bearing because it is profitable to remove more overburden to reach a thick seam than a thin one.Seams of coal do not lie or run at a uniform depth beneath the surface.

They may crop, fault or pitch.

Coal crops when it comes to the surface of the earth.

It faults where the vein is cut off beneath the surface usually by a rock upheaval, and it pitches where it goes into the earth at a sharper incline.

The overburden is removed in several ways, by scrapers which are the ordinary road scrapers with which one is generally familiar by high-lift shovels which are basically the standard form of steam shovel with a little longer boom to enable the bucket of the shovel to be raised to a greater height.

In other words the high-lift shovel in effect digs itself down into a hole in order to reach the coal.

And lastly, coal is removed -- overburden is removed by the use of draglines.

These vary in size but basically, they're all the same.