Wisconsin v. Michigan
295 U.S. 455 (1935)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Wisconsin v. Michigan, 295 U.S. 455 (1935)

Wisconsin v. Michigan

No. 15, original

Argued February 11, 1935 and April 8, 1935

Decided May 20, 1935

295 U.S. 455

Syllabus

1. Where error in the courses and distances in a decree describing the boundary between two States were due to the mutual mistake of counsel for the parties in preparing the decree for acceptance by the Court, the Court has jurisdiction to correct them in a subsequent suit between the same parties. P. 295 U. S. 460.

2. A decree declaring the boundary of two States does not deprive the Court of jurisdiction thereafter to define, in a later suit between them, a portion of the boundary the precise location of which was not an issue in the earlier litigation. P. 295 U. S. 460.

3. The descriptions of the Green Bay section of the Michigan and Wisconsin boundary, the one given by the Act creating Wisconsin

Page 295 U. S. 456

Territory (April 20, 1836) as

". . . to a point in the middle of said lake [Michigan], and opposite the main channel of Green Bay, and through said channel and Green Bay to the mouth of the Menominee river . . ."

and the other by the Enabling Act (June 15, 1836) by which Michigan became a State, as

". . . thence down the centre of the main channel of the same [Menominee River] to the centre of the most usual ship channel of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan; thence, through the centre of the most usual ship channel of the said bay to the middle of Lake Michigan . . ."

are, in effect, the same. P. 295 U. S. 460.

4. The evidence establishes that, when these Acts were passed, there was no "main" or "most usual ship" channel in Green Bay; that it is impossible to identify any channel as the one intended by the Acts, and that neither state has exercised jurisdiction over the waters of the bay that are now in controversy (lying to the west of islands adjudicated to Wisconsin in an earlier case, 270 U. S. 270 U.S. 314).

Held:

(1) That, in accordance with the principles of international law, the presumed intent of Congress, and the equality of the States under the Constitution, the two states should be allowed equal opportunities for navigation, fishing, and other uses. P. 295 U. S. 461.

(2) To this end, the boundary will be established through and along or near the middle of the waters of the bay that are here in controversy. P. 295 U. S. 462.

5. Tracts called "Grassy Island" and "Sugar Island" in fact parts of the Michigan mainland, are adjudged to that state. P. 295 U. S. 463.

6. The case is referred to the special master for preparation of the decree. P. 295 U. S. 463.

This original suit to establish a part of the boundary between the two states was heard on exceptions to the report of the Special Master. An earlier case between the same parties is reported in 270 U. S. 270 U.S. 295.

Page 295 U. S. 457

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