United States v. Jacobs

Decision Date01 May 1978
Docket NumberNo.76-1193,76-1193
Citation56 L.Ed.2d 53,436 U.S. 31,98 S.Ct. 1873
PartiesUNITED STATES, petitioner, v. Estelle JACOBS aka "Mrs. Kramer."Supreme Court of the United States
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

California, and not the United States, has dominion over the submerged lands and waters within the one-mile belts surrounding Santa Barbara and Anacapa Islands within the Channel Islands National Monument. When, by Presidential Proclamation in 1949, the Monument was enlarged to encompass areas within one nautical mile of the shorelines of these islands, the submerged lands and waters within the one-mile belts were under federal dominion as a result of this Court's decision two years earlier in United States v. California, 332 U.S. 19, 67 S.Ct. 1658, 91 L.Ed. 1889. But, assuming that the Proclamation intended to reserve such submerged lands and waters, dominion over them was subsequently transferred to California by the Submerged Lands Act, whose very purpose was to undo that decision. The § 5(a) "claim of right" exemption from the Act's broad grant, relied on by the Government, clearly does not apply to claims based on the 1947 California decision. The reservation for a national monument made by the 1949 Proclamation could not enhance the Government's claim to the submerged lands and waters in dispute since the statutory authority under which such monuments are created merely authorizes land to be shifted from one federal use to another. Pp. 36-41.

Allan A. Ryan, Jr., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff.

Russell Iungerich, Los Angeles, Cal., for defendant.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case, arising under our original jurisdiction, is whether California or the United States has dominion over the submerged lands and waters within the Channel Islands National Monument, which is situated within the three-mile marginal sea off the southern California mainland.1 For the reasons that follow, we hold that dominion lies with California and not the United States.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to reserve lands "owned or controlled by the Government of the United States" for use as national monuments.2 Pursuant to this Act, President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2281, 52 Stat. 1541. This Proclamation "reserved from all forms of appropriation under the public-land laws" most of Anacapa and Santa Barbara Is- lands, which were then federal lands,3 and set them aside as the Channel Islands National Monument.4 As the Proclamation recognized, these islands "contain fossils of Pleistocene elephants and ancient trees, and furnish noteworthy examples of ancient volcanism, deposition, and active sea erosion . . . ." Ibid.

The two large islands and the many smaller islets and rocks surrounding them also shelter a variety of marine life, some rare or endangered. Prompted by a desire to protect these species 5 and other "objects of geological and scientific interest," President Truman issued a Proclamation in 1949 enlarging the Monument to encompass "the areas within one nautical mile of the shoreline of Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands . . . ." Presidential Proclamation No. 2825, 63 Stat. 1258. It is undisputed that the islets and protruding rocks within these one-mile belts have long belonged to the United States and, as a result of President Truman's Proclamation, are now part of the Monument.6 It is equally clear that the tidelands of Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands, as well as of the islets and rocks, belong to California.7 What is disputed in this litigation is dominion over the submerged lands and waters within the one-mile belts surrounding Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands.8

When President Truman issued Proclamation No. 2825 in 1949, the submerged lands and waters within these belts were under federal dominion and control, as a result of this Court's decision two years earlier in United States v. California, 332 U.S. 19, 67 S.Ct. 1658, 91 L.Ed. 1889. That case had held that the United States was "possessed of paramount rights in, and full dominion and power over, the lands, minerals and other things underlying the Pacific Ocean lying seaward of the ordinary low-water mark on the coast of California, and outside of the inland waters, extending seaward three nautical miles . . . ." United States v. California, 332 U.S. 804, 805, 68 S.Ct. 20, 21, 92 L.Ed. 382.

There can be no serious question, therefore, that the President in 1949 had power under the Antiquities Act to reserve the submerged lands and waters within the one-mile belts as a national monument, since they were then "controlled by the Government of the United States." 9 Thus, whether Proclamation No. 2825 did in fact reserve these submerged lands and waters, or only the islets and protruding rocks, could be, at the time of the Proclamation, a question only of Presidential intent, not of Presidential power.

In addressing the controversy now before us, the parties have devoted large parts of their briefs to canvassing this question of intent: What did the Proclamation mean by the use of the word "areas"? 10 We find it unnecessary, however to decide this question. For even assuming that President Truman intended to reserve the submerged lands and waters within the one-mile belts for Monument purposes, we have concluded that the Submerged Lands Act, 67 Stat. 29, 43 U.S.C. § 1301 et seq., subsequently transferred dominion over them to California.

The very purpose of the Submerged Lands Act was to undo the effect of this Court's 1947 decision in United States v. California, 332 U.S. 19, 67 S.Ct. 1658, 91 L.Ed. 1889. In enacting it, Congress "recognized, confirmed, established, and vested in and assigned to," § 6(a), 67 Stat. 32, 43 U.S.C. § 1314(a), the States "(1) title to and ownership of the lands beneath navigable waters within the boundaries of the respective States, and the natural resources within such lands and waters, and (2) the right and power to manage, administer, lease, develop, and use the said lands and natural resources . . . ." § 3(a), 67 Stat. 30, 43 U.S.C. § 1311(a). The submerged lands and waters within one mile of Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands plainly fall within this general grant.11 The United States contends, however, that the Submerged Lands Act did not operate to relinquish these submerged lands and waters to California because of an exception to the broad statutory grant that Congress provided in § 5(a) of the Act.12 The final clause of § 5(a), upon which the United States relies, exempted from the grant "any rights the United States has in lands presently and actually occupied by the United States under claim of right." 13 The legislative history shows that this "claim of right" clause was added to preserve unperfected claims of federal title from extinction under § 3's general "conveyance or quitclaim or assignment." 14 In the words of the Acting Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, the clause "neither validates the claim nor prejudices it," but merely "leaves it where we found it" for eventual adjudication.15

The entire purpose of the Submerged Lands Act would have been nullified, however, if the "claim of right" exemption saved claims of the United States based solely upon this Court's 1947 decision in United States v. California. Not surprisingly, therefore, the legislative history unmistakably shows that the "claim of right" must be "other than the claim arising by virtue of the decision in [that case] . . . ." 16 Thus, this exception applies to the submerged lands and waters in controversy here only if the United States' claim to them ultimately rests on some basis other than the "paramount rights" doctrine of this Court's 1947 California decision.

The United States has pointed to no other basis for believing that the submerged lands and waters in question were owned or controlled by the United States in 1949. The crucial question, then, is whether the 1949 reservation of the submerged lands and waters for Monument purposes (assuming that was the intent of the Proclamation) somehow changed the nature of the Government's claim. If it did not—if the ownership or control of these areas by the United States in 1953 existed solely by virtue of this Court's 1947 decision in United States v. California —then § 3(a) of the Submerged Lands Act transferred "title to and ownership of" the submerged lands and waters to California, along with "the right and power to manage, administer, lease, develop, and use" them. 67 Stat. 30, 43 U.S.C. § 1311(a).

We have concluded that the 1949 Proclamation did not and could not enhance the str ngth of the Government's basic claim to a property interest in the submerged lands and waters in controversy. Reservation of federally controlled public lands for national monument purposes has the effect of placing the area reserved under the "supervision, management, and control" of the Director of the National Park Service. 39 Stat. 535, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1-3 (1976 ed.). Without such reservation, the federal lands would remain subject to "private appropriation and disposal under the public land laws," 78 Stat. 985, 43 U.S.C. § 1400(c), or to continued federal management for other designated purposes, see, e. g., ibid.; 78 Stat. 986, 43 U.S.C. § 1411. The Antiquities Act of 1906 permits the President, "in his discretion," to create a national monument and reserve land for its use simply by issuing a proclamation with respect to land "owned or controlled by the Government of the United States." 34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. § 431 (1976 ed.). A...

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