Arizona v. California
292 U.S. 341 (1934)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Arizona v. California, 292 U.S. 341 (1934)

Arizona v. California

No. ___, original

Return to Rule to Show Cause Presented April 2, 1934

Decided May 21, 1934

292 U.S. 341

Syllabus

1. This Court may entertain a bill to perpetuate testimony in aid of future litigation within its original jurisdiction. P. 292 U. S. 347.

Page 292 U. S. 342

2. The sole purpose of such a suit is to perpetuate the testimony, and, in order to sustain the bill, it must appear that the facts which the plaintiff expects to prove by the testimony of the witnesses sought to be examined will be material to the determination of the matter in controversy; that the testimony will be competent evidence; that depositions of the witnesses cannot be taken and perpetuated in the ordinary methods prescribed by law, because the then condition of the suit (if one is pending) renders it impossible, or (if no suit is then pending) because the plaintiff is not in a position to start one in which the issue may be determined, and that taking of the testimony on bill in equity is made necessary by the danger that it may be lost by delay. P. 292 U. S. 347.

3. Arizona asked leave to file a bill to perpetuate the testimony of persons who took part in the formulation of the "Colorado River Compact," apportioning the waters of the Colorado River, which was adopted by all the State, embracing the watershed of that river, except Arizona, and was approved, subject to certain limitations and conditions, by the Act of Congress of December 21, 1928, known as the Boulder Canyon Project Act (see283 U. S. 283 U.S. 423). By the bill, she claimed that § 4(a) of the Act, imposing limitations on the use of water by California, was intended for the benefit of Arizona; that § 4(a) embodies by reference Article III(b) of the Compact for the purpose of defining those limitations, and that the proper interpretation of Art III(b) will be therefore essential in future litigation to the determination of Arizona's rights under the statute; that, read in the light of other parts of the Compact, Art. III(b) is ambiguous, and that the testimony sought to be perpetuated will be material and admissible in removing the ambiguity, and will show that the water apportioned by Art. III(b) to the lower basin of the watershed -- 1,000,000 acre feet per annum -- is for the sole and exclusive use and benefit of Arizona.

Held:

(1) That the meaning of the Compact, considered merely as a contract, can never be material to the contemplated litigation, since Arizona refused to ratify the Compact. P. 292 U. S. 356.

(2) The bill does not show that Art. III(b) of the Compact is relevant to the interpretation of § 4(a) of the Act. The Act does not purport to apportion among the States of the lower basin (to which Arizona and California belong) the waters to which the lower basin is entitled under the Compact; it merely limits California's use of waters under Art. III(a) and of surplus waters, and there can be no claim that Art. III(b) is relevant in defining surplus waters under § 4(a) of the Act. P. 292 U. S. 357.

Page 292 U. S. 343

(3) Proof that Congress understood that Article III(b) had allotted all the waters therein to Arizona would not make Art. III(b) relevant to the interpretation of § 4(a) of the Act. P. 292 U. S. 358.

(4) Ambiguity in Art. III(b) is not shown. The Compact makes an apportionment only between the upper and lower basins. The fact that any of the waters apportioned to the lower basin are useful to Arizona only or have been appropriated by her does not contradict the clear intent of Paragraph (b) to apportion the 1,000,000 acre-feet therein to the States of the lower basin, and not specifically to Arizona alone. P. 292 U. S. 368.

(5) The proposed testimony, even if it were relevant, would not be competent, since the Act rests not upon what was thought or said by negotiations of the Compact, but upon its ratification by the six states other than Arizona. P. 292 U. S. 359.

4. The rule permitting recourse to the negotiations, preparatory work, and diplomatic correspondence of the contracting parties to establish the meaning of a treaty when not clear has no application to oral statements made by those engaged in negotiating the treaty which were not embodied in any writing and were not communicated to the Government of the negotiator or to it ratifying body. P. 292 U. S. 360.

Leave to file denied.

Original application upon the part of the State of Arizona for leave to file a bill to perpetuate testimony for use in future litigation against the State of California and other parties named.

Page 292 U. S. 344

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