Salyer Land Company v. Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District

PETITIONER: Salyer Land Company
RESPONDENT: Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District
LOCATION: Frontiero's Residence

DOCKET NO.: 71-1456
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 410 US 719 (1973)
ARGUED: Jan 08, 1973
DECIDED: Mar 20, 1973

Robert M. Newell - for appellee
Thomas Keister Greer - for appellants

Facts of the case


Media for Salyer Land Company v. Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 08, 1973 in Salyer Land Company v. Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in number 71-1456, Salyer Land Company against Tulare Lake District.

Mr. Greer.

Thomas Keister Greer:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Like the case which the Court just heard, it also involves the question of the franchise in a water district.

The Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District comprehends approximately 193,000 acres, almost entirely in Kings County California in the Southern San Joaquin Valley.

There are nine water storage districts in California.

There is no magic in the word storage in the title.

It functions like an ordinary water or ordinary irrigation district.

The thing which sets a water storage district apart and the reason that these appellants are here today are two California statutes governing a suffrage in a water storage district.

The first is Section 41000 the Water Code.

It’s very short and clear into the point “Only the holders of title to land are entitled to vote at a general election” and the statute immediately following Section 4100, “Each voter may vote in each precinct in which any of the land owned by him is situated and may cast one vote for each $100 or fraction thereof, worth of land.”

The appellants, plaintiffs below include a large land owner.

A Salyer Land Company Farms approximately 28,000 acres of land in the district and about another 28,000 immediately outside.

It includes a small landowner Harold Shawl has one-half interest in 65 acres in the district.

It includes a nonlandowning resident, Lawrence Allison who is 67 years of old, has resided, has worked in the district.

It’s stipulated in the record that he is actively interested in water matters, subscribes the water publications.

Interested in water as is any normal human being in this part of California can’t vote.

Warren E. Burger:

What’s the high and the low of these two large and small voters that you mentioned on the $100?

Thomas Keister Greer:

The J. G. Boswell Company, Mr. Chief Justice, owns some 61,000 acres in the district.

I think it leases an additional 8 or 10,000 acres. It farms approximately 40% of the district and has about 40% of its water.

The -- there are some landholdings that are down to lessen -- to less than 20 acres.

I think there are 189 landowners in the district who own about 2.34% of the acreage.

They own up to 80 acres of piece.

So there is a pattern of a good many small landowners and four large landowners.

One of which is that the appellant Salyer Land Company.

Warren E. Burger:

Then who -- how many votes did they get under this farm?

Thomas Keister Greer:

The J. G. Boswell Company gets 37,835 votes.

There is an exhibit in the record, the voting list of the last election that was held in the district.

The only election has been held in the district in 25 years.