Arizona v. California

Decision Date19 June 2000
Docket NumberNo. 8,8
Citation530 U.S. 392
PartiesARIZONA v. CALIFORNIA
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

530 U.S. 392

ARIZONA
v.
CALIFORNIA

No. 8, Orig.

United States Supreme Court.

Argued April 25, 2000.

Decided June 19, 2000.


530 U.S. 393

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

ON EXCEPTIONS TO REPORT OF SPECIAL MASTER
530 U.S. 394
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
530 U.S. 394
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
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Ginsburg, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Rehnquist, C. J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which O'Connor and Thomas, JJ., joined, post, p. 422

Jeffrey P. Minear argued the cause for the United States. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Waxman, Assistant Attorney General Schiffer, and Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler.

Mason D. Morisset argued the cause for defendant Quechan Indian Tribe. With him on the briefs was K. Allison McGaw.

Jerome C. Muys argued the cause for the State parties. With him on the briefs were Bill Lockyer, Attorney General of California, Richard M. Frank, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Mary B. Hackenbracht, Assistant Attorney General, Douglas B. Noble, Deputy Attorney General, Michael Pearce, Steven B. Abbott, and Karen L. Tachiki.*

530 U.S. 397

Justice Ginsburg, delivered the opinion of the Court.

In the latest chapter of this long-litigated originaljurisdiction case, the Quechan Tribe (Tribe) and the United States on the Tribe's behalf assert claims for increased rights to water from the Colorado River. These claims are based on the contention that the Fort Yuma (Quechan) Indian Reservation encompasses some 25,000 acres of disputed boundary lands not attributed to that reservation in earlier stages of the litigation. In this decision, we resolve a threshold question regarding these claims to additional water rights: Are the claims precluded by this Court's prior decision in Arizona v. California, 373 U. S. 546 (1963) (Arizona I), or by a consent judgment entered by the United States Claims Court in 1983? The Special Master has prepared a report recommending that the Court reject the first ground for preclusion but accept the second. We reject both grounds for preclusion and remand the case to the Special Master for consideration of the claims for additional water rights appurtenant to the disputed boundary lands.

I

This litigation began in 1952 when Arizona invoked our original jurisdiction to settle a dispute with California over the extent of each State's right to use water from the Colorado River system. Nevada intervened, seeking a determination of its water rights, and Utah and New Mexico were joined as defendants. The United States intervened and sought water rights on behalf of various federal establishments, including five Indian reservations: the Chemehuevi Indian Reservation, the Cocopah Indian Reservation, the Fort Yuma (Quechan) Indian Reservation, the Colorado River Indian Reservation, and the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. The Court appointed Simon Rifkind as Special Master.

The first round of the litigation culminated in our opinion in Arizona I. We agreed with Special Master Rifkind that

530 U.S. 398
the apportionment of Colorado River water was governed by the Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928, 43 U. S. C. § 617 et seq., and by contracts entered into by the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to the Act. We further agreed that the United States had reserved water rights for the five reservations under the doctrine of Winters v. United States, 207 U. S. 564 (1908). See Arizona I, 373 U. S., at 565, 599-601. Because the Tribes' water rights were effective as of the time each reservation was created, the rights were considered present perfected rights and given priority under the Act. Id., at 600. We also agreed with the Master that the reservations' water rights should be based on the amount of practicably irrigable acreage on each reservation and sustained his findings as to the relevant acreage for each reservation. Ibid. Those findings were incorporated in our decree of March 9, 1964, which specified the quantities and priorities of the water entitlements for the States, the United States, and the Tribes. Arizona v. California, 376 U. S. 340. The Court rejected as premature, however, Master Rifkind's recommendation to determine the disputed boundaries of the Fort Mojave and Colorado River Indian Reservations; we ordered, instead, that water rights for those two reservations "shall be subject to appropriate adjustment by agreement or decree of this Court in the event that the boundaries of the respective reservations are finally determined." Id., at 345

In 1978, the United States and the State parties jointly moved this Court to enter a supplemental decree identifying present perfected rights to the use of mainstream water in each State and their priority dates. The Tribes then filed motions to intervene, and the United States ultimately joined the Tribes in moving for additional water rights for the five reservations. Again, the Court deferred resolution of reservation boundary disputes and allied water rights claims. The supplemental decree we entered in 1979 set out the water rights and priority dates for the five reservations

530 U.S. 399
under the 1964 decree, but added that the rights for all five reservations (including the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation at issue here) "shall continue to be subject to appropriate adjustment by agreement or decree of this Court in the event that the boundaries of the respective reservations are finally determined." Arizona v. California, 439 U. S. 419, 421 (per curiam) . The Court then appointed Senior Circuit Judge Elbert P. Tuttle as Special Master and referred to him the Tribes' motions to intervene and other pending matters

Master Tuttle issued a report recommending that the Tribes be permitted to intervene, and concluding that various administrative actions taken by the Secretary of the Interior constituted "final determinations" of reservation boundaries for purposes of allocating water rights under the 1964 decree. (Those administrative actions included a 1978 Secretarial Order, discussed in greater detail infra, at 404405, which recognized the Quechan Tribe's entitlement to the disputed boundary lands of the Fort Yuma Reservation.) Master Tuttle also concluded that certain lands within the undisputed reservation boundaries but for which the United States had not sought water rights in Arizona I —the socalled "omitted lands"—had in fact been practicably irrigable at the time of Arizona I and were thus entitled to water. On these grounds, Master Tuttle recommended that the Court reopen the 1964 decree to award the Tribes additional water rights.

In Arizona v. California, 460 U. S. 605 (1983) (Arizona II), the Court permitted the Tribes to intervene, but otherwise rejected Master Tuttle's recommendations. The Secretary's determinations did not qualify as "final determinations" of reservation boundaries, we ruled, because the States, agencies, and private water users had not had an opportunity to obtain judicial review of those determinations. Id., at 636-637. In that regard, we noted that California state agencies had initiated an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California challenging

530 U.S. 400
the Secretary's decisions, and that the United States had moved to dismiss that action on various grounds, including sovereign immunity. "There will be time enough," the Court stated, "if any of these grounds for dismissal are sustained and not overturned on appellate review, to determine whether the boundary issues foreclosed by such action are nevertheless open for litigation in this Court." Id., at 638. The Court also held that the United States was barred from seeking water rights for the lands omitted from presentation in the proceedings leading to Arizona I; "principles of res judicata," we said, "advise against reopening the calculation of the amount of practicably irrigable acreage." 460 U. S., at 626. In 1984, in another supplemental decree, the Court again declared that water rights for all five reservations "shall be subject to appropriate adjustments by agreement or decree of this Court in the event that the boundaries of the respective reservations are finally determined." Arizona v. California, 466 U. S. 144, 145

The District Court litigation proceeded with the participation of eight parties: the United States, the States of Arizona and California, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Coachella Valley Water District, and the Quechan, Fort Mojave, and Colorado River Indian Tribes. The District Court rejected the United States' sovereign immunity defense; taking up the Fort Mojave Reservation matter first, the court voided the Secretary's determination of that reservation's boundaries. Metropolitan Water Dist. of S. Cal. v. United States, 628 F. Supp. 1018 (SD Cal. 1986). The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, however, accepted the United States' plea of sovereign immunity, and on that ground reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the entire case. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that the Quiet Title Act, 28 U. S. C. § 2409a, preserved the United States' sovereign immunity from suits challenging the United States' title "to trust or restricted Indian lands," § 2409a(a), and therefore blocked recourse to the District

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Court by the States and state agencies. Metropolitan Water Dist. of S. Cal. v. United States, 830 F. 2d 139 (1987). We granted certiorari and affirmed the Ninth Circuit's judgment by an equally divided Court. California v. United States, 490 U. S. 920 (1989) (per curiam) .

The dismissal of the District Court action dispelled any expectation that a "final determination" of reservation boundaries would occur in that forum. The State parties then moved to reopen the 1964 decree, asking the Court to determine whether the Fort Yuma Indian...

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