United States v. Rands

PETITIONER: United States

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 389 US 121 (1967)
ARGUED: Oct 18, 1967
DECIDED: Nov 13, 1967

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Rands

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 18, 1967 in United States v. Rands

Earl Warren:

No.54 United States Petitioner versus R. B. Rands et al.

Gentlemen, before Mr. Gooch and Mr. Douglas, I'd just like to say that this is another case where counsel is representing an indigent defendant.

And I want to tell you what a comfort it is to the Court to know that lawyers and various communities are willing to give their services to a cause of this kind because every man, rich or poor should have a defense through counsel.

So, I appreciate very much and in behalf of the Court, I express it to you, Mr. Gooch, for having accepted this responsibility.

And Mr. Douglas, of course, we appreciate the manner in which you represent the State of Texas in this manner.

Mr. Rifkind.

Robert S. Rifkind:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case involving the condemnation of respondent's land is here on writ of certiorari for the Ninth Circuit.

It raises an aspect of the recurring problem of the relationship of the property rights of riparian landowners to the power of the Federal Government over navigation and navigable waters.

In particular, the question presented here is whether when the United States condemns riparian land for use in a river improvement project it must pay the owner not only for the land's value as upland, but also for such incremental value as the land may have as a site for a port.

Respondents owned two tracks of undeveloped land containing a total of approximately 260 acres lying along the Oregon Shore of the Columbia River some 250 miles up from the Pacific.

It was taken in connection with the John Day Lock and Dam; a project authorized by Congress in 1950 as part of a comprehensive program for the development of the Columbia River and distributaries.

The John Day Dam is a multipurpose project designed for flood control, hydroelectric power, and navigation.

And I think that there can be no doubt here that the project serves a bona fide navigational purpose.

When completed, the dam will create a lake of some 75 miles which will fill an important missing link between the lakes created downstream and upstream by prior dam projects.

It does complete a slack water navigational passage running hundreds of miles from the Pacific Coast into the interiors, all the way to Idaho.

It was estimated in 1950 that the gain to the economy from the dam's navigational function alone exceeded in $1,948 dollars, a million and three quarter -- one and three quarter million dollars per year.

The creation of the lake which will be approximately 100 feet deep at the dam site inevitably involves a degree of flooding of uplands because respondent's tracks are within the area to be flooded.

The United States commence this condemnation proceeding in 1963.

The sole question litigated below was the amount that the United States must pay for the property taken.

Although respondents sought to raise other issues both courts below held that they had not done so in a timely fashion.

And that aspect of the case has not been brought before this Court.

We do not have here therefore any challenge to the validity of the taking as it proper exercise of the Government's powers of eminent domain, nor any question as to the use that may subsequently be made of the land taken.

With respect to the issue of compensation, respondents indicated before trial, they would seek to prove that most of the land was useful for agriculture and for the extraction of gravel and sand.

But that a small portion of the land had a higher value because of its utility as a port site.

The reasons which I will return to in a moment, the District Court excluded all evidence of port site value.

A jury awarded some $7,000 for one fact on the basis of agricultural and mineral uses.

And the party stipulated that $2,400 was appropriate compensation for the other track.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, was there any evidence at all of whether the value for -- as to port site?

Robert S. Rifkind:

There was an offer of proof after the district judge's ruling.