United States v. Louisiana (Louisiana Boundary Case)

PETITIONER: United States
LOCATION: Bethlehem Steel Corp. High Pier

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 394 US 11 (1969)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1968 / Oct 15, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1969

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Louisiana (Louisiana Boundary Case)

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 15, 1968 in United States v. Louisiana (Louisiana Boundary Case)

Audio Transcription for United States v. Louisiana (Louisiana Boundary Case) - October 14, 1968 in United States v. Louisiana (Louisiana Boundary Case)

Earl Warren:

Number 9, original, United States of America, plaintiff, versus the State of Louisiana.

Mr. Sachse, you are arguing first, aren't you--

Victor A. Sachse:


Earl Warren:

In the matter?

Very well.

Victor A. Sachse:

I'm Victor Sachse, Your Honor.

May it please the Court.

In 1960, as Your Honors know, in the-- in an earlier stage of this same case, Your Honors held that the Submerged Lands Act of 1953 confirmed or put claim to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama three miles from their cost lines while put-- claiming three leagues for Texas and Florida.

In your decree, as in the Submerged Lands Act itself, the “coast line” is defined as meaning the ordinary low water along that portion of the coast which is in direct contact with the open sea and the line marking the seaward limit of inland waters.

This Court retained jurisdiction.

Some few modifications were made in December 1965 by the United States but the coast line, although it long ago is designated and defined by agencies of the federal government directed by Congress to do that very thing and although it was long ago accepted and approved by the State of Louisiana, has not been approved by the Attorney General of the United States.

So, last September, we filed a motion to have the Court recognize it.

In January, the Attorney General responded, opposed recognition of this line.

Instead, asked for the recognition of the line according to his interpretation of the Geneva Convention, the convention on the territory of seas and contiguous zones.

The line that you refer to is the coastguard lines.

Victor A. Sachse:

We don't refer to it as the coastguard lines because it was marked so long before the coastguard had anything to do with it.

We refer to it as the inland waterline, but I'm sure we're talking to the same thing, Justice Harlan.

You use that as a casual phrase to describe what you're talking about.

Victor A. Sachse:

Well, we use it and we refer to it as the inland waterline because the Congress directed, in1895, the Secretary of the Treasury to mark, to designate, and define by suitable bearings or ranges with lighthouses, light vessels, buoys, or coast objects, their lines dividing the high seas from rivers, harbors, and inland waters.

And, “inland waters” is the basis of this issue as we have it.

It is the basis of the statute.

It is the point of argument between ourselves and the Solicitor General.

I want to say that the phase of the argument which I will attempt to cover relates to the inland waterline.

In January of this year, the Solic-- the Attorney General, through the Solicitor, claimed a different line based on the Geneva Convention.

Louisiana started to leave the issue right there, but we concluded that we found the-- that line wrong also and that incorrect interpretations of the Geneva Convention had been used, as we understand it.

So, we filed in May an-- a motion for an ultimate line.

Mr. JP Miller of New Orleans will speak to the Court with respect to the lines relating to the Geneva Convention and I will not.

There is no dispute, Your Honors, as to this inland waterline as designated and defined by agencies of the federal government pursuant to the 1895 Act.

Do you mean there's no dispute as to where it is?

Victor A. Sachse:

Correct, sir.