United States v. Louisiana

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Connecticut Welfare Department

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 389 US 155 (1967)
ARGUED: Oct 09, 1967
DECIDED: Dec 04, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 1967 in United States v. Louisiana

Earl Warren:

Number 9, Original, United States of America, Plaintiff, versus the State of Louisiana et al.

Mr. Claiborne.

Louis F. Claiborne:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

Although this case appears on the docket as United States versus Louisiana, it in fact has nothing whatever to do with Louisiana.

The dispute here is as between the United States and the State of Texas.

The legal principle involve cannot conceivably affect any other state but Texas with the single exception of Florida.

It could not and does not as we view it at least affect Louisiana or any other state.

Nevertheless, perhaps in thought because of the title, perhaps also in part because of the response filed by the State of Texas, Louisiana has expressed its concern that the Court might think otherwise than we do as to the breadth of the ruling in this case, and have asked for an opportunity to briefly state their views.

In a spirit of accommodation, I have agreed to cede few moments of my time to Louisiana so that it may present that view.

As I understand it, their view simply is that the case has nothing to do with them.

After I conclude, I will therefore cede to Mr. Sachse, Special Assistant Attorney General of Louisiana who will say a few words in behalf of their state.

Do you agree with Louisiana?

Louis F. Claiborne:

So far as we understand their position.

We are in agreement that the case is not bear on the question of how to delineate their (Inaudible).

The issue in this case is on this motion -- in this case is whether in delineating the nine-mine -- nine-mile belt which was granted to Texas by the Submerged Lands Act as construed by this Court several terms ago whether in measuring that belt, one begins measuring out from artificial harbor-works which project into the gulf or rather whether as we contend, you begin measuring out that belt from the natural shoreline.

Now the question is here because as it happens, they're all rather long jetties that Galveston and Sabine Pass projecting into the gulf some two or three miles and some distance into the gulf from those jetties all valuable oil lands.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, what's the measure Mr. Claiborne of the difference between the 1845 where the 1845 line would be and from which Texas contends the measurement should be?

Louis F. Claiborne:

Assuming Mr. Justice Brennan that the 1845 shoreline is very much like the present shoreline, the difference between measuring out from the shoreline and measuring out from the jetties, the ends of the jetties as would be the rule under the California case is some two to three miles an arc of that diameter, I've got the right geometry, that much more into the gulf in the shape of an arc.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

So we know where the natural -- is the -- what's the distance from the point where the natural shoreline was in 1845 and where the natural shoreline would be today, do you know?

Louis F. Claiborne:

That is not entirely clear because that part of the coast was not fully mapped in 1845.

However, we do have maps dating from some years thereafter.

I would hope as I will say in conclusion that should the Court sustain our first position which is that he must go -- he must measure out from that 1845 shoreline as it then existed.

But nevertheless, it may well turn out that as a matter of administrative compromise because there had been both accretion and erosion, the United States and the State of Texas might amicably agree to stipulate that the present shoreline is the shoreline as of 1845.

Hugo L. Black:


Louis F. Claiborne:

It could be determined with some approximation based on these later maps but still there would be some problems if the parties could not stipulate.

I would have every hope that the parties could even stipulate what the 1845 shoreline was or stipulate the present shoreline is as a practical matter sufficiently close to that old shoreline.

There has been relatively little accretion or erosion on the Texas coast.

Now, I do not mean to imply by saying this that we have explored with Texas what agreement they would or would not be willing to enter into should the decision go as we would urge.

I should add even now that we do have an alternative argument which is that if the shoreline isn't fixed on the ground as it was in 1849 -- 1845, the boundary might be viewed as an ambulatory one which would now include the present shoreline but not artificial harbor-works to take in into the gulf.

In that instance of course, there's no problem about fixing the boundaries.