United States v. Louisiana

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 446 US 253 (1980)
ARGUED: Mar 18, 1980
DECIDED: Apr 28, 1980

Frederick W. Ellis - on behalf of the Defendants
Louis F. Claiborne - on behalf of the Plaintiff
William J. Guste, Jr. - on behalf of the Defendants

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Louisiana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 18, 1980 in United States v. Louisiana

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear argument next in United States v. Louisiana.

Mr. Claiborne, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Louis F. Claiborne:

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

This is part -- I wish I could say the last part -- of the final chapter in the dispute between the United States and the State of Louisiana over the mineral resources of the Continental Shelf off the coast of that state, a controversy which has been before this Court since 1948.

At the end of the day, Louisiana's more extravagant claims to parts of that Continental Shelf were rejected and its was settled that Louisiana was entitled only to a three-mile belt measured from its coast in the usual way.

Finally, in 1975, the Louisiana coastline, that is to say the base line from which that three-mile belt is measured was fixed by decree entered by this Court on June 16th.

That decree was jointly submitted by the parties and entered by consent.

I immediately stress that that decree, in defining the areas that were federal and those which were state, expressly provided that the coastline defined in it was to be taken as the past and present coastline for all relevant times and purposes.

That is to say that true or not, as a matter of law, the coastline was treated as having been unchanged and the portions attributable to the federal and state government unchanged since June 5, 1950, the accounting date, the earliest relevant date, with only three exceptions which fortunately do not concern us here.

In three areas, the Court approved the Master's finding that for some periods islands or extensions of the mainland had existed whereas for others they have not.

The relevance of this is that all the accounting in this case have been based on that premise, that is that the coastline has not changed in thirty years.

Now, although the three-mile line extending from the coastline has not formally been entered by decree here, the parties within a month of the Court's last decision, the decree of June 16, 1975, agreed to that line simply as a matter of mathematical projection, and that description has been submitted to the Special Master and is before the Court and there is no dispute about it.

Potter Stewart:

There is no what?

Louis F. Claiborne:

There is no dispute between the parties with respect to it.

What remains are purely accounting issues, not boundary questions.

We are done with geography.

We are now quarreling about money, that is to say the monetary consequences of the boundary determinations.

We had hoped that no such issue would remain for this Court and indeed it did not appear that there was any disagreement between the parties until 1975 when for the first time Louisiana made the claims which this Court referred to its Special Master on which he wrote a report and which are now before this Court on exceptions to that report.

So far as this Court is concerned if it accepts our acquiescence in one of the rulings of the Special Master adverse to the United States with respect to severance tax, which we do not press here, that leaves two issues.

The first issue is simply put whether Louisiana must pay over to the United States subject to appropriate offsets the oil and gas revenues which it collected from lessees since June 1950 and which are attributable to federal areas of the Continental Shelf, just as the United States must pay, for the most part has paid to Louisiana the receipts from the same date attributable to state lands.

Potter Stewart:

Do you know how much is involved in that, Mr. Claiborne?

Louis F. Claiborne:

Approximately $19 million.

Louisiana says --

Potter Stewart:

This involves Zone 1, so-called?

Louis F. Claiborne:

Well, so we thought.

In fact, it involves portions, monies from Zone 2 as well, approximately --

Potter Stewart:

On the other side, it involves Zone 4, right?

Louis F. Claiborne:

There is no issue with respect to Zone 4 because --

Potter Stewart:

No, but --

Louis F. Claiborne:

There would have been had Louisiana been --