United States v. Louisiana (Texas Boundary Case)

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Louisiana et al.
LOCATION: Bethlehem Steel Corp. High Pier

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)

CITATION: 394 US 1 (1969)
ARGUED: Nov 18, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 03, 1969

Facts of the case


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

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 18, 1968 in United States v. Louisiana (Texas Boundary Case)

Earl Warren:

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

(Texas Boundary case).

Hugo L. Black:

Mr. Claiborne

Louis F. Claiborne:

Mr. Justice Black and may it please the Court.

Let me make clear at the outset that despite the title of the case, this original action or this face of this original action involves only the State of Texas not Louisiana or as might be otherwise in the case.

It's perhaps fitting that the Court herein apology first for having to hear for the third time since the passage of the Submerged Lands Act another aspect of this title lands controversy between the United States and Texas.

One might have hoped that eight terms ago, when the Court decided that Texas unlike most of the gulf states was entitled to historic claim in the gulf that that historic claim was based on the Republic of Texas Boundary Act which defined the belt of Texas as nine miles from land and the Texas coast being relatively uncomplicated, that might have been the end of the matter.

Unfortunately, however, there was that non-resolved matters which came before the Court only at the last term.

The question then was where you start measuring this nine-mile belt, whether from the present coast or rather from the historic coast, that is the coast in 1845.

The Court there determined that it was measured, was to be measured.

This nine-mile historic belt to Texas had been adjudicated, that it was to be measured from the historic coast, the coast in 1845.

Therefore, one could not take into account artificial jetties that had been put outside of harbors at the Galveston and Sabine Pass.

When it came to translating the Court's opinion into a decree, we discovered that we've left another problem unresolved.

It was easy or it was done, it wasn't easy.

The parties did stipulate where the 1845 coast was and that has been stipulated in a written client stipulation which is before the Court.

Texas thought that the next step was simply to measure nine miles out from that which was done and that line has been stipulated.

However, the Submerged Lands Act contains a provision that no state not even a state in the Gulf of Mexico is entitled to submerge lands more than nine miles from its coast.

United States takes a position that nine miles from its coast of that purpose, for the purpose of its limitation means nine miles from the present coast not from the historic coast.

Now, it so happens that the Texas coast has eroded substantially over the last century.

One of the little drawings which have been distributed to the Court indicates the extent roughly of the erosion and the extent of the accretion.

The portion of shown in red indicates the erosion.

That's what concerns us today.

Because most of the coast has eroded rather than accreted, we do have a difference as to where this nine-mile belt ends up depending on where it begins.

Now, the real question is as I said, whether this limitation which Texas acknowledges and which is stated in plain words in the Submerged Lands Act that no state shall take more than nine miles from a coast means from the present coast.

If it means from the present coast, then we cannot measure from the old coast because that would push the line beyond nine miles from the present coast.

Now, the effectiveness is --

Hugo L. Black:


Louis F. Claiborne:

Mr. Justice Black, this problem cannot arise with respect to any other state except Florida.

It arises with respect to those two states only because they have received grants which come to the very edge of the maximum, the maximum for any state being nine miles.

Otherwise, the problem would never arise.