United States v. Louisiana

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Louisiana et al.
LOCATION: Fleetwood Paving Co.

DOCKET NO.: 10 ORIG
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 363 US 1 (1960)
ARGUED: Oct 12, 1959 / Oct 13, 1959 / Oct 14, 1959 / Oct 15, 1959
DECIDED: May 31, 1960

ADVOCATES:
Gordon Madison - for Alabama
George S. Swarth - for the United States
J. Chrys Dougherty - for Texas
Jack P. F. Gremillion - Louisiana Attorney General, for Louisiana
James P. Hart - for Texas
John H. Price, Jr. - for Mississippi
Joe T. Patterson - Mississippi Attorney General, for Mississippi
J. Lee Rankin - Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States
Price Daniel - Governor, State of Texas, for Texas
Richard W. Ervin - Florida Attorney General, for Florida
Spessard L. Holland - U.S. Senator (FL) for Florida
Victor A. Sachse - for Louisiana

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 12, 1959 (Part 2) in United States v. Louisiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1959 (Part 1) in United States v. Louisiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1959 (Part 2) in United States v. Louisiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1959 (Part 1) in United States v. Louisiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1959 (Part 2) in United States v. Louisiana
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1959 in United States v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 12, 1959 (Part 1) in United States v. Louisiana

Earl Warren:

Number 10, Original, United States of America, Plaintiff, versus States of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The orders of the Court are hereupon the list certified by the Chief Justice to be filed with the clerk.

It will not do our (Inaudible)

J. Lee Rankin:

Mr. Justice Black, may it please the Court.

This case involved the issue of whether the United States is entitled to the lands, minerals and other things under the sea within the distance beyond three miles seaward of the low watermark or the limit of inland waters.

This Court by its decisions in the cases of United States against California, United States against Texas and United States against Louisiana determined that all of the lands, minerals and other things under sea from the low watermark and the outer limit of inland waters, belong to the United States or at least that the United States had paramount rights and power over such properties.

So that without further action, there'll be no question here, but what all of that land or those lands, properties, minerals and so forth, belong to the United States.

The question then before the Court is what kind of a relinquishment the United States may, to give to the States some rights in such properties and the extent of that relinquishment.

The only relinquishment that the Court needs to deal with at this time is that made by the Submerged Lands Act of 1953.

And what were the intents and purposes of the Congress in the passing of that Act.

The Act is set out on pages 31 through 34 of the Government's brief, insofar as the crucial parts of it are concerned, that the Court needs to turn its attention to during this deliberation and argument.

The grant was made by Section 3 that appears at the bottom of page 31.

And it defines the nature of the grant titled to and ownerships of -- of the lands, beneath navigable waters within the boundaries of the respective States and so forth.

And the right and power to administer such land and properties and the United States hereby releases and relinquishes onto the States such properties.

Then you have to turn to Section 2 to determine the definition of what lands beneath navigable waters are defined to be under the Act.

And that recites where, in any case, the boundary line of each such State or in any case, such boundary as it existed at the time such State became a member of the Union.

Now, that will become during this argument, a crucial language that the Court will have to determine the meaning of and if it is not entirely clear from the language itself what the Congress intend, which can be drawn from the congressional debates and the other actions by the Congress before the passage of the Act.

It also goes on indeed to say, includes the seaward boundaries of a State or its boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico or any of the great lakes as they existed at the time such State became a member of the Union or as heretofore approved by the Congress or as extended or confirmed pursuant to Section 4 hereof.

Some of the issues involved will be what -- when at the time the State became a member of the Union means.

Whether it meant the time that the State became one of the number of the States of the United States, whether it meant just prior to that time, the claim is made that that language is open to the construction that meant prior to the time it became a member of the Union.

Or whether it is that exact moment when the State enters upon its respective rights, duties and limitations as a member of the Union or the United States of America.

Then there are some questions that will be dealt with during the argument in regard to Section 4.

Section 4 was intended and says in so many words that it -- purpose is to give to the States that do not have a three-mile boundary, the right to extend their boundaries out to three miles and confirms those boundaries expressly.

And then leaves open, the Government of the United States contends, the question of whether or not, they got the beyond three miles as to whether the States of the Gulf and that -- those were the only States that are allowed the opportunity to establish that they had a boundary at the time they became a member of the Union, beyond three miles up to three leagues.

The law is very clear that they limited the grant, so that it could not in any case, be beyond three leagues.

But they are given the opportunity, the -- the United States contends.

Are any of the States in claiming the rights of Continental Shelf to (Inaudible)

J. Lee Rankin:

We think that it's clearly recognized in the briefs in this litigation now, that the Act does not permit anything beyond the three leagues.

The provisions of Section 4 do preserve, the United States concedes or agrees the right for them to claim for other purposes that they at the time they became a member of the Union, did have a boundary beyond then -- the three leagues.

But under the Act, it is recognized by the briefs of the parties that no claim can be validated or found to be valid by this Court beyond three leagues, because it expressly limits it to that.