Texas v. New Mexico

LOCATION: Great Sioux Indian Reservation

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 446 US 540 (1980)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1980
DECIDED: May 19, 1980

Douglas G. Caroom - on behalf of Plaintiff
Richard A. Simms - on behalf of Defendant

Facts of the case


Media for Texas v. New Mexico

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 24, 1980 in Texas v. New Mexico

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Texas v. New Mexico.

Mr. Caroom, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Douglas G. Caroom:

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

This is an original action initiated by the State of Texas over six years ago to enforce the Pecos River Compact, an interstate agreement concerning the distribution of water on the Pecos River.

For the last four years we have been before the Special Master, the Honorable Jean S. Preitenstein.

During this time the Master has issued two reports.

The first report was in July 1977, his report on New Mexico's affirmative defenses to our action.

In that report he overruled the affirmative defenses of lack of justiciable controversy, exhaustion, primary jurisdiction, estoppel and laches.

New Mexico has voiced no objection to that ruling.

The Master has filed another report, his --

Byron R. White:

We have never adopted it either, have we?

Douglas G. Caroom:

You have not adopted it.

It was filed, I believe is the notation given.

New Mexico has not in this most recent round of objections objected to the original report, either.

The current report is the Master's determination of New Mexico's obligation under Article 3-A of the Pecos River Compact.

This is the key provision and let me briefly read it to the Court.

It states "New Mexico shall not deplete by man's activities the flow of the Pecos River at the New Mexico-Texas State line below an amount which will give Texas a quantity of water equivalent to that available under the 1947 Condition."

Now, the key phrase here is "the 1947 Condition" which is defined by Article 2-G of the Compact.

Article 2-G states "The 1947 Condition means that situation in the Pecos River Basin as described and defined in the report of the Engineering Advisory Committee."

It goes on to say "In determining any question of fact hereafter arising as to such situation reference shall be made to and decision shall be based on such report.

"Now, the Engineering Advisory Report is a collection of various reports put together by a committee of engineers that were advising the Compact negotiators prior to the adoption and ratification of the Compact.

Texas contends the two Compact provisions I have read to you must be and were intended to be applied literally, i.e. the 1947 Condition is exactly what the Compact says, it is that Condition defined in the engineering report.

New Mexico would go a step further and extrapolate the definition.

New Mexico would say that because the engineering reports were intended to reflect conditions existing on the river roughly in 1947, that the 1947 Condition is not as defined by the Compact, it is not that engineering report but rather those conditions which the report was depicting.

Say that again?

Douglas G. Caroom:

New Mexico would say that the 1947 Condition is not the report and the conditions it is describing but rather those conditions it was intending to describe.

Byron R. White:

You mean the actual conditions?

Douglas G. Caroom:


Byron R. White:

And you would say that would still hold true if it turned out that there was a printing error in the engineering report?

Douglas G. Caroom:

That would be the strict literal consequence of our case.