47 Cal.2d 597, 23043, Ivanhoe Irr. Dist. v. All Parties

Docket Nº:23043
Citation:47 Cal.2d 597, 306 P.2d 824
Opinion Judge:[12] Shenk
Party Name:Ivanhoe Irr. Dist. v. All Parties
Attorney:[7] E. I. Feemster, James R. McBride, Ralph M. Brody, Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General, B. Abbott Goldberg and Adolphus Moskovitz, Deputy Attorneys General, for Appellants. [8] Roy A. Gustafson, District Attorney (Ventura), James E. Dixon, Deputy District Attorney, J. Lee Rankin, Solicitor Gener...
Case Date:January 24, 1957
Court:Supreme Court of California

Page 597

47 Cal.2d 597

306 P.2d 824




COURTNEY McCRACKEN et al., Respondents

THE PEOPLE, Defendant and Appellant.

L. A. No. 23043.

Supreme Court of California

Jan. 24, 1957

In Bank.

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E. I. Feemster, James R. McBride, Ralph M. Brody, Edmund G. Brown, Attorney General, B. Abbott Goldberg and Adolphus Moskovitz, Deputy Attorneys General, for Appellants. Roy A. Gustafson, District Attorney (Ventura), James E. Dixon, Deputy District Attorney, J. Lee Rankin, Solicitor General of the United States, Perry W. Morton, Assistant Attorney General, David R. Warner and Roger P. Marquis, Attorneys, Department of Justice, as Amici Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

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Horton &amp Knox, Harry W. Horton, M. A. Bailey, W. R. Bailey, Henry Holsinger, Principal Attorney, Division of Water Resources, and Gavin M. Craig, Senior Attorney, for Respondents. Brobeck, Phleger &amp Harrison, Herman Phleger, Alvin J. Rockwell, John M. Naff, Jr., Edson Abel, Sherwood Green and Green, Green &amp Bartow as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.



The plaintiff Ivanhoe Irrigation District and certain of the defendants appeal from a judgment refusing to confirm a proposed contract between, the United States, acting by and through the Bureau of Reclamation of the Department of the Interior, and the district. The contract provides for the delivery of a supply of water for irrigation purposes from the Central Valley Project and for the construction of a distribution system to make the water available for beneficial use on the lands within the district.

On September 23, 1949, the plaintiff district, purporting to act under the Irrigation District Federal Cooperation Law (Wat. Code, section 23175 et seq.), entered into the contract with the United States. As required by law the contract was approved by the California Districts Securities Commission, but with reservations (Wat. Code, sections 23222 and 24253), and by the district's electors (Wat. Code, section 23220 et seq).

This proceeding was commenced by the district on October 31, 1949, in the Superior Court in and for the County of Tulare to have the contract confirmed. Confirmation is required by federal law (Omnibus Adjustment Act of 1926, section 46, 44 Stats. 649, 650, 43 U.S.C. section 423e (1946), Federal Reclamation Laws, Ann. 318-319), by section 42 of the contract and by the Water Code of the State of California (section 22670 et seq., section 23225). It is a special proceeding in rem, and summons was by publication. It was brought against all persons having or claiming to have an interest in the formation of the plaintiff district and in the operation of the proposed contract and the lands affected thereby. It will fix the status of all property within the district lawfully affected by the contract and a final judgment will foreclose further inquiry into the matters to which the judgment properly relates. Within its pertinent issues it will be binding on the world at large. (Code Civ. Proc., section 1908; Becher v.

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Contoure Laboratories, 279 U.S. 388 [49 S.Ct. 356, 73 L.Ed. 752]; Riley v. New York Trust Co., 315 U.S. 343 [62 S.Ct. 608, 86 L.Ed. 885]; see Frenchman-Cambridge Irr. Dist. v. Ferguson, 154 Neb. 20 [46 N.W.2d 692].) The judgment is limited to a determination of the validity of the contract. As necessarily incident thereto questions relating to the title to and the control to be exercised over the unappropriated domestic waters of the state, to the distribution and sale of those waters by the district and to the ownership of the distributing system to be acquired by the district, will be considered.

Originally only two parties appeared as parties defendant, the first being the People of the State of California, acting by and through the attorney general. The other appearing defendant is Courtney McCracken, the owner of 309 acres of irrigable land within the district. He filed a demurrer on December 13, 1949, and an answer on November 11, 1950. He is a bachelor and those provisions of the contract (sections 34, 35 and 36) which would limit to a single person the ownership of no more than 160 acres of land entitled to the distribution of water, particularly are sought to be applied to him. He is a nonresident of the district and could not, under terms of the applicable law (Wat. Code, section 23220 et seq.) vote for or against approval of the contract. He opposes confirmation for numerous reasons but particularly on the ground that the 160-acre limitation hereinafter considered is not applicable and is invalid as to him and his property within the district.

A default was entered against everyone not appearing within the time specified in the published notice of service. The United States did not formally appear but caused the Regional Counsel and Assistant Regional Counsel of the Bureau of Reclamation of the Department of the Interior to request permission to appear as amici curiae. Objection to such an appearance was interposed by the then attorney general on the ground that the United States was a party interested in the proceeding and should appear as such. The objection was overruled and the request granted. Federal counsel thus appeared and took part in the proceedings throughout the trial.

The State Engineer is Chief of the Division of Water Resources of the Department of Public Works and pursuant to law has exercised the duties imposed upon the Water Commission. 1

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He did not appear prior to argument in the trial court, but at that time the court, on its own motion, set aside the default of the State Engineer and he appeared and filed an answer by his own counsel as he had the right to do. (Gov. Code, sections 11040, 11041.) He stated that his interest in the proceeding was to protect the state water law from impairment, and that in the event the court saw fit to validate the contract he requested the court to confirm what he claimed to be established state law relating to the title of the state's water resources and regulations pertaining thereto. The particular relief which he seeks will be hereinafter noted.

Counsel for the Di Giorgio Fruit Corporation, the owner of large areas of irrigated and irrigable lands in the San Joaquin Valley in and out of the district, appeared as amici curiae and participated in the trial in opposition to confirmation of the contract.

The petition sets forth the essential facts as a basis for the request for confirmation. The prayer is that the court examine and enquire into the proceedings for the organization of the district and the validity of the contract, and that a judgment be entered confirming those proceedings and the contract. A copy of the proposed contract is attached to the petition and made a part thereof.

On December 13, 1949, the attorney general filed a general and special demurrer on behalf of the state in which he attacked the validity of the contract sought to be confirmed. Before the demurrer was ruled upon and on November 8, 1950, he filed an answer reiterating as defensive matter the position taken in the demurrer, which was (1) that the proposed contract would be an unconstitutional delegation of the legislative power of California to Congress, to the Secretary of the Interior, and to the district, acting jointly; (2) that certain land limitation provisions of the Reclamation Laws which the contract purports to apply within the district are not applicable to the land within the district; (3) that the contract unconstitutionally deprives owners of excess land of property without due process of law; (4) that the Irrigation District Federal Cooperation Law of the State of California, under which the district purports to proceed, violates the Constitution and laws of the State of California

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requiring uniform operation of general laws and prohibiting special laws where general laws may be applicable, and (5) that the contract is not authorized by federal law.

The prayer of the state was that a judgment be entered that the plaintiff take nothing by the petition; that a declaration be made of the rights and duties among themselves of the State of California, the United States, the plaintiff District and the landowners therein with respect to the contract, and for all other proper relief.

On March 7, 1951, in open court, the attorney general sought leave to withdraw the original answer of the State of California and to file an amended answer. Permission was granted and the amended answer was filed on March 30, 1951, seeking the confirmation of the contract.

The filing of the amended answer occurred after conferences and correspondence between the state's representatives and the Secretary of the Interior. In his letter of March 5, 1951, the Secretary of the Interior stated that questions "with respect to the historical, present and future ownership of water or water rights" would seem "to be immaterial to the question whether a particular contract for water service or for the construction of a distribution system, or both, is a valid one and to the question of the authority of the district to enter into it"; that he did not believe "that a finding that the contractual obligations are valid is determinative of the title of the water", and that the question "whether an individual water user, or a district may have a legal right to demand the continual delivery...

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