U.S. v. Geophysical Corp. of Alaska, Nos. 82-3574

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BROWNING, Chief Judge, HUG, and TANG; HUG
Citation732 F.2d 693
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. GEOPHYSICAL CORPORATION OF ALASKA, et al., Defendants-Appellants-Cross- Appellees. "THE BEAUFORT SEA" Limited Partnership, Plaintiff-Appellant-Cross-Appellee, v. UNITED STATES of America, et al., Defendants-Appellees-Cross-Appellants.
Docket Number82-3631,Nos. 82-3574
Decision Date07 August 1984

Page 693

732 F.2d 693
UNITED STATES of America, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
GEOPHYSICAL CORPORATION OF ALASKA, et al.,
Defendants-Appellants-Cross- Appellees.
"THE BEAUFORT SEA" Limited Partnership,
Plaintiff-Appellant-Cross-Appellee,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, et al.,
Defendants-Appellees-Cross-Appellants.
Nos. 82-3574, 82-3631.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Oct. 5, 1983.
Decided May 2, 1984.
As Amended on Denial of Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Aug. 7, 1984.

Page 695

James C. Kilbourne, Martin Green, Anne S. Almy, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Joseph R.D. Loescher, Carl J.D. Bauman, Hughes, Thorsness, Gantz, Powell & Brundin, Robert A. Mintz, Anchorage, Alaska, for defendants-appellants-cross-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska.

Before BROWNING, Chief Judge, HUG, and TANG, Circuit Judges.

HUG, Circuit Judge:

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ("OCSLA"), 43 U.S.C. Secs. 1331-1356, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to issue permits for the geophysical and geological exploration of the outer continental shelf. Regulations promulgated pursuant to OCSLA impose conditions upon permittees, including the release to the Secretary of data and processed information 1 gathered under the permits and the public disclosure of that data and processed information. These appeals concern permittees' challenges to this regulatory scheme and the authorizing statutes. We hold that the permits, regulations, and statutes are valid.

Page 696

I

BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

The Secretary is authorized to issue permits for geological and geophysical exploration under 43 U.S.C. Sec. 1340(a)(1). Exploration is permitted as long as it does "not interfere with or endanger actual operations under any lease" and is "not unduly harmful to aquatic life." Id. The permits issued under this provision authorized exploration in a designated geographical area for a limited term. Each permit incorporated the provisions of 30 C.F.R. Part 251, which regulates exploration of the outer continental shelf. In addition, each permit provided that the Secretary would have the right to inspect all data gathered under the permit and all information processed from that data. On the Secretary's request, the permittee was required to release to the Government copies of any data and processed information. Although the cost of processing the copies released to the Secretary was reimbursable, neither the cost of gathering the data nor the market value of the data or processed information was to be refunded to the permittee. Each permit further provided that after a specific time period, all data and processed information released to the Secretary would be subject to public disclosure. Finally, the permittees agreed to comply with "other applicable regulations and statutes whether such statutes [and] regulations ... are enacted, promulgated, issued or amended before or after this Permit and Agreement is issued ...."

In 1976 and 1977, Geophysical Corporation of Alaska ("GCA") obtained three permits authorizing exploration of the outer continental shelf off the coast of Alaska. As to one of those permits, number 77-3, GCA entered into a limited partnership, The Beaufort Sea, for the purpose of acquiring and marketing geophysical data. GCA served as general partner and eleven individuals were limited partners. In 1977 and 1978, the Secretary requested release of data gathered under GCA's three permits. GCA refused to submit the requested information.

Nekton, Inc. held three permits for exploration off the Alaska coast and two permits for exploration off the California coast. These were issued during the period 1975-1977. The Secretary requested release of data gathered under at least two of these permits. Nekton released the requested data. No requests were made as to Nekton's remaining permits.

Norpac, Inc. obtained four permits in 1977. Each authorized exploration off the California coast. The Secretary has not requested the release of data gathered under any Norpac permit.

B. Procedural History

In 1978, GCA brought an action against the Secretary seeking a declaratory judgment that the permit provisions and regulations requiring release and disclosure of data were invalid. It contended the regulations were not supported by statutory authority. It also argued that the regulations effected a taking of GCA's property without compensation in violation of the fifth amendment. The district court granted judgment to the Secretary on each of these claims. Geophysical Corporation of Alaska v. Andrus, 453 F.Supp. 361 (D.Alaska 1978). GCA did not appeal that judgment.

Despite the result of its declaratory judgment action, GCA did not release the data requested by the Secretary. The Secretary therefore filed an action in 1981 seeking an order requiring GCA to release data gathered under all three GCA permits. In response, GCA contended the Secretary had failed to name indispensable parties--The Beaufort Sea and its limited partners. This claim was based on the partners' asserted property interest in data gathered under permit number 77-3. The Secretary amended his complaint to name as defendants the eleven limited partners and The Beaufort Sea.

The partners then filed a separate action against the Secretary. They sought a declaratory judgment that the regulations and permit provisions were invalid for lack

Page 697

of statutory authorization. They also contended that the regulations were improperly promulgated, that they effected an uncompensated taking in violation of the fifth amendment, and that they violated the Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1905, and the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(4). Nekton and Norpac joined this suit as plaintiffs.

The district court consolidated the two cases and heard cross-motions for summary judgment. It held that the doctrine of collateral estoppel barred The Beaufort Sea and the partners, as privies of GCA, from raising the issues decided in GCA v. Andrus. It concluded Norpac and Nekton were not precluded from contending the regulations lacked statutory authorization or effected an unconstitutional taking, but it rejected both these claims on the basis of its prior decision. It found the Secretary had substantially complied with the Administrative Procedures Act and that the challenged regulations thus had not been improperly promulgated. Finally, it held that the permit provisions authorizing public disclosure of data were in conflict with the Trade Secrets Act and were therefore void. The resulting order required the permittees to release data and processed information, but prevented its public disclosure.

The Beaufort Sea and the partners appeal the grant of summary judgment to the Secretary. The Secretary cross-appeals, challenging the conclusion that the public disclosure provisions are void.

II
COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL

The Beaufort Sea and the limited partners contend the district court erred in applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel to certain of their claims. They contest the conclusion that they were in privity with GCA, asserting their interests in the data gathered under permit number 77-3 are distinct from GCA's because they derive from the partnership agreement.

Whether collateral estoppel is available as a bar to these parties' claims is a mixed question of law and fact in which legal issues predominate. The question of the availability of the doctrine is thus subject to de novo review. United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d 1195, 1202 (9th Cir.1984) (en banc). Once it is determined that the collateral estoppel bar is available, the actual decision to apply the doctrine is left to the district court's discretion. True Drilling Co. v. Donovan, 703 F.2d 1087, 1093 (9th Cir.1983).

Under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, once the district court has decided an issue of fact or law necessary to its judgment, that decision may preclude relitigation of the issue in a different cause of action involving a party to the prior case. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94, 101 S.Ct. 411, 414, 66 L.Ed.2d 308 (1980). "Party" need not be defined in a rigid manner in this context. United States v. ITT Rayonier, Inc., 627 F.2d 996, 1003 (9th Cir.1980); Jackson v. Hayakawa, 605 F.2d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir.1979), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 952, 100 S.Ct. 1601, 63 L.Ed.2d 787 (1980). A person technically not a party to the prior action may be bound by the prior decision if his interests are so similar to a party's that that party was his "virtual representative" in the prior action. ITT Rayonier, 627 F.2d at 1003. See also Aerojet-General Corp. v. Askew, 511 F.2d 710, 719 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 908, 96 S.Ct. 210, 46 L.Ed.2d 137 (1975); 18 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice Sec. 4457 (1981). A finding of virtual representation may be based on an express or implied legal relationship that makes a party to the prior action accountable to a non-party. ITT Rayonier, 627 F.2d at 1003.

In this case, the partnership provides a legal relationship upon which a finding of virtual representation can be based. The partnership's sole purpose was the collection and marketing of data under permit number 77-3. The limited partners' only claim to partnership profits derived from the sales of that data. GCA brought the prior action to protect the ownership and market value of the data. In doing so,

Page 698

it not only acted in its own interest, but also protected the interests of The Beaufort Sea and the limited partners, some of whom were officers in GCA. The interests of GCA, the partnership, and the partners are so closely related that The Beaufort Sea and the partners are bound by the district court's decision in the prior action. Those parties are therefore precluded from claiming that the regulations lack statutory authorization or that they effect an unconstitutional...

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110 practice notes
  • American Booksellers Ass'n, Inc. v. Schiff, Civ. 85-0966 BB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • November 3, 1986
    ...that a federal court will not assume jurisdiction where it cannot grant effective relief. United States v. Geophysical Corp. of Alaska, 732 F.2d 693, 698 (9th Cir.1984); United States v. Smith, 700 F.2d 627, 636 (11th Cir.1983). The court cannot restructure plaintiffs' lawsuit to encompass ......
  • Louisiana Pacific v. Beazer Materials & Services, No. Civ. S-89-871 LKK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 1, 1994
    ...see Parks v. Watson, 716 F.2d 646 (9th Cir.1983) (distinguishing Dolim);16 United 842 F. Supp. 1251 States v. Geophysical Corp., 732 F.2d 693 (9th Cir.1984); Davies v. Grossmont Union High School Dist., 930 F.2d 1390, 1399 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 111 S.Ct. 2892, 115 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Helfand v. National Union Fire Ins. Co., No. A049442
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 28, 1992
    ...interest that the latter was the former's virtual representative in the earlier action. (United States v. Geophysical Corp. (9th Cir.1984) 732 F.2d 693, National Union asserts that plaintiffs were virtually represented by at least four separate parties: the trustee in bankruptcy; counsel fo......
  • Idaho Rivers United v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, CASE NO. C14-1800JLR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Washington)
    • February 9, 2016
    ...can be granted." Nw. Envtl. Def. Ctr. v. Gordon, 849 F.2d 1241, 1244 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Geophysical Corp. of Alaska, 732 F.2d 693, 698 (9th Cir. 1984)). "A case becomes moot whenever it los[es] its character as a present, live controversy of the kind that must exist if......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
110 cases
  • American Booksellers Ass'n, Inc. v. Schiff, Civ. 85-0966 BB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • November 3, 1986
    ...that a federal court will not assume jurisdiction where it cannot grant effective relief. United States v. Geophysical Corp. of Alaska, 732 F.2d 693, 698 (9th Cir.1984); United States v. Smith, 700 F.2d 627, 636 (11th Cir.1983). The court cannot restructure plaintiffs' lawsuit to encompass ......
  • Louisiana Pacific v. Beazer Materials & Services, No. Civ. S-89-871 LKK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 1, 1994
    ...see Parks v. Watson, 716 F.2d 646 (9th Cir.1983) (distinguishing Dolim);16 United 842 F. Supp. 1251 States v. Geophysical Corp., 732 F.2d 693 (9th Cir.1984); Davies v. Grossmont Union High School Dist., 930 F.2d 1390, 1399 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 111 S.Ct. 2892, 115 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Helfand v. National Union Fire Ins. Co., No. A049442
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 28, 1992
    ...interest that the latter was the former's virtual representative in the earlier action. (United States v. Geophysical Corp. (9th Cir.1984) 732 F.2d 693, National Union asserts that plaintiffs were virtually represented by at least four separate parties: the trustee in bankruptcy; counsel fo......
  • Idaho Rivers United v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, CASE NO. C14-1800JLR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Washington)
    • February 9, 2016
    ...can be granted." Nw. Envtl. Def. Ctr. v. Gordon, 849 F.2d 1241, 1244 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Geophysical Corp. of Alaska, 732 F.2d 693, 698 (9th Cir. 1984)). "A case becomes moot whenever it los[es] its character as a present, live controversy of the kind that must exist if......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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