Texas v. New Mexico

LOCATION: Mobile, Alabama

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)

CITATION: 462 US 554 (1983)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1983
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1983

Charlotte Uram - on behalf of the Defendant
R. Lambeth Townsend - on behalf of the Plaintiff

Facts of the case


Media for Texas v. New Mexico

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1983 in Texas v. New Mexico

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in the original jurisdiction case, the State of Texas against the State of New Mexico.

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

R. Lambeth Townsend:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court, this is a suit to enforce the Pecos River Compact.

Texas and New Mexico intended the Compact to equitably apportion the waters of the Pecos River between the states.

The Compact contemplates continuing administration of the Pecos River in conformity with the terms of the Compact.

The Compact imposes upon New Mexico, the upstream state, the obligation not to deplete by man's activities the state line flow below that available to Texas under the 1947 condition.

The controversy between the states as to the meaning of the 1947 condition precipitated this lawsuit.

The Special Master rejected the conflicting contentions of the states concerning the 1947 condition and defined the 1947 condition in his 1979 report.

His 1979 report was confirmed in all respects and his definition of the 1947 condition was approved.

Since that time, we have been attempting to translate the definition of the 1947 condition into water quantities to provide a numerical standard by which compliance can be measured.

The states disagree as to the procedure to implement the definition of the 1947 condition.

As a result, numerous hearings have been held and the Master has issued his report and recommendations.

The Master has recommended that the New Mexico motion to dismiss the suit be denied, that the Texas motion to substitute the double mass analysis for the river routing as the accounting procedure be denied--

But without prejudice to the--

R. Lambeth Townsend:

--Without prejudice for further consideration at the Commission.

Also, he recommended that the United States representative on the Pecos Commission or some third party be vested with the power to participate in Commission deliberations and to vote when the states are not able to agree.

He then recommended that the matter should be returned to the Commission for the performance by it of its duties and that the Court retain jurisdiction.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--Mr. Townsend, do you think the Master rejected Texas' motion to use the double mass analysis on the merits, or did he just decide that it shouldn't be decided until other issues are resolved?

R. Lambeth Townsend:

I do not believe that he rejected the double mass on its merits.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

The language is unclear, is it not?

R. Lambeth Townsend:

It's... the Master found the double mass to be an accounting procedure useful in the inflow-outflow method.

However, he was concerned about some language that the engineer advisors to the Compact negotiators used in their report, and based on their statement the allocation shouldn't be based on a straight line he felt it was not proper for him to use the double mass.

Texas contends that Texas has addressed the concerns of the engineer advisors and that double mass is based upon a curvolinear basis as opposed to straight-line percentage.

Texas believes that the Master has not rejected the double mass on its merits.

He... there are not sufficient findings in his report to reach that conclusion.

The primary position of Texas is that this suit not be dismissed and that the Court retain jurisdiction so that the disputes between the states may be resolved by whatever means the Court deems appropriate.

If the suit is dismissed, Texas' only alternative is to take... to try to take steps to institute an equitable apportionment of the waters of the Pecos River between the states.

However, Article XIV of the Compact provides that it takes the action of the legislatures of both states to terminate the Compact.

So this Compact provision may prevent Texas from seeking the remedy of equitable apportionment.

However, Texas believes that this Court has jurisdiction to continue the suit to a complete resolve of the disputes concerning the Compact.