Nevada v. United States
463 U.S. 110 (1983)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Nevada v. United States, 463 U.S. 110 (1983)

Nevada v. United States

No. 81-2245

Argued April 27, 1983

Decided June 24, 1983*

463 U.S. 110

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

In 1913, the United States sued in Federal District Court, in what is known as the Orr Ditch litigation, to adjudicate water rights to the Truckee River for the benefit of both the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation (Reservation) and the Newlands Reclamation Project (Project). Named as defendants were all water users on the Truckee River in Nevada. Eventually, in 1944, the District Court entered a final decree, pursuant to a settlement agreement, awarding various water rights to the Reservation and the Project, which by this time was now under the management of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID). In 1973, the United States filed the present action in the same District Court on behalf of the Reservation, seeking additional rights to the Truckee River, and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (Tribe) was permitted to intervene in support of the United States. Named as defendants were all persons presently claiming water rights to the Truckee River and its tributaries in Nevada, including the defendants in the Orr Ditch litigation and their successors, individual farmers who owned land in the Project, and the TCID. The defendants asserted res judicata as an affirmative defense, claiming that the United States and the Tribe were precluded by the Orr Ditch decree from litigating the asserted claim. The District Court sustained the defense and dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the Orr Ditch decree concluded the dispute between, on the one hand, the Orr Ditch defendants, their successors in interest, and subsequent appropriators of the Truckee River, and, on the other hand, the United States and the Tribe, but not the dispute between the Tribe and the Project landowners. The court found that, since neither the Tribe nor the Project landowners were parties in Orr Ditch, but instead were represented by the United States, and since their interests may have conflicted in that proceeding, it could not be found that the United States had intended to bind these nonparties inter se, absent a specific statement of adversity in the pleadings.

Page 463 U. S. 111

Held: Res judicata prevents the United States and the Tribe from litigating the instant claim. Pp. 463 U. S. 121-145.

(a) Where the Government represented the Project landowners in Orr Ditch, the landowners, not the Government, received the beneficial interest in the water rights confirmed to the Government. Ickes v. Fox,300 U. S. 82; Nebraska v. Wyoming,325 U. S. 589. Therefore, the Government is not at liberty to simply reallocate the water rights decreed to the Reservation and the Project as if it owned those rights. Pp. 463 U. S. 121-128.

(b) The cause of action asserted below is the same cause of action that was asserted in the Orr Ditch case. The record in that case, including the final decree and amended complaint, clearly shows that the Government was given an opportunity to litigate the Reservation's entire water rights to the Truckee River, and that the Government intended to take advantage of that opportunity. Pp. 463 U. S. 130-134.

(c) All of the parties below are bound by the Orr Ditch decree. The United States, as a party to the Orr Ditch litigation acting as a representative for the interests of the Reservation and the Project, cannot relitigate the Reservation's water rights with those who could use the Orr Ditch decree as a defense. The Tribe, whose interests were represented in Orr Ditch by the United States, also is bound by the Orr Ditch decree, as are the Orr Ditch defendants and their successors. Moreover, under circumstances where, after the Orr Ditch litigation was commenced, the legal relationships were no longer simply those between the United States and the Tribe, but were also those between the United States, TCID, and the Project landowners, the interests of the Tribe and the Project landowners were sufficiently adverse so that both are now bound by the Orr Ditch decree. It need not be determined what the effect of the Government's representation of different interests would be under the law of private trustees and fiduciaries, for that law does not apply where Congress has decreed that the Government have dual responsibilities. The Government does not "compromise" its obligation to one interest that Congress obliges it to represent when it simultaneously performs another task for another interest that Congress has obligated it by statute to do. And as to the defendants below who appropriated water from the Truckee River subsequent to the Orr Ditch decree, they too, as a necessary exception to the res judicata mutuality requirement, can use that decree against the plaintiffs below. These defendants have relied just as much on that decree in participating in the development of western Nevada as have the parties in the Orr Ditch case, and any other conclusion would make it impossible finally to quantify a reserved water right. Pp. 463 U. S. 134-144.

649 F.2d 1286 and 666 F.2d 351, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Page 463 U. S. 112

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 463 U. S. 145.

Page 463 U. S. 113

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1913, the United States sued to adjudicate water rights to the Truckee River for the benefit of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation and the planned Newlands Reclamation Project. Thirty-one years later, in 1944, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada entered a final decree in the case pursuant to a settlement agreement. In 1973. the United States filed the present action in the same court on behalf of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, seeking additional water rights to the Truckee River. The issue thus presented is whether the Government may partially undo the 1944 decree, or whether principles of res judicata prevent it, and the intervenor Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, from litigating this claim on the merits.

Page 463 U. S. 114

I

Nevada has, on the average, less precipitation than any other State in the Union. Except for drainage in the southeastern part of the State into the Colorado River, and drainage in the northern part of the State into the Columbia River, the rivers that flow in Nevada generally disappear into "sinks." Department of Agriculture Yearbook, Climate and Man (1941). The present litigation relates to water rights in the Truckee River, one of the three principal rivers flowing through west central Nevada. It rises in the High Sierra in Placer County, Cal., flows into and out of Lake Tahoe, and thence down the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It flows through Reno, Nev., and, after a course of some 120 miles, debouches into Pyramid Lake, which has no outlet.

It has been said that Pyramid Lake is

"widely considered the most beautiful desert lake in North America [and that its] fishery [has] brought it worldwide fame. A species of cutthroat trout . . . grew to world record size in the desert lake and attracted anglers from throughout the world."

S. Wheeler, The Desert Lake 90-92 (1967). The first recorded sighting of Pyramid Lake by non-Indians occurred in January, 1844, when Captain John C. Fremont and his party camped nearby. In his journal, Captain Fremont reported that the lake "broke upon our eyes like the ocean," and was "set like a gem in the mountains." 1 The Expeditions of John Charles Fremont 604-605 (D. Jackson & M. Spence eds.1970). Commenting upon the fishery, as well as the Pyramid Lake Indians that his party was camping with, Captain Fremont wrote:

"An Indian brought in a large fish to trade, which we had the inexpressible satisfaction to find was a salmon trout; we gathered round him eagerly. The Indians were amused with our delight, and immediately brought in numbers; so that the camp was soon stocked. Their flavor was excellent -- superior, in fact, to that of any fish I

Page 463 U. S. 115

have ever known. They were of extraordinary size -- about as large as the Columbia river salmon -- generally from two to four feet in length."

Id. at 609. When first viewed by Captain Fremont in early 1844, Pyramid Lake was some 50 miles long and 12 miles wide. Since that time the surface area of the lake has been reduced by about 20,000 acres.

The origins of the cases before us are found in two historical events involving the Federal Government in this part of the country. First, in 1859, the Department of the Interior set aside nearly half a million acres in what is now western Nevada as a reservation for the area's Paiute Indians. In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant, by Executive Order, confirmed the withdrawal as the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation. The Reservation includes Pyramid Lake, the land surrounding it, the lower reaches of the Truckee River, and the bottom land alongside the lower Truckee.

Then, with the passage of the Reclamation Act of 1902, 32 Stat. 388, the Federal Government was designated to play a more prominent role in the development of the West. That Act directed the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw from public entry arid lands in specified Western States, reclaim the lands through irrigation projects, and then to restore the lands to entry pursuant to the homestead laws and certain conditions imposed by the Act itself. Accordingly, the Secretary withdrew from the public domain approximately 200,000 acres in western Nevada, which ultimately became the Newlands Reclamation Project. The Project was designed to irrigate a substantial area in the vicinity of Fallon, Nev., with waters from both the Truckee and the Carson Rivers.

The Carson River, like the Truckee, rises on the eastern slope of the High Sierra in Alpine County, Cal., and flows north and northeast over a course of about 170 miles, finally disappearing into Carson sink. The Newlands Project accomplished the diversion of water from the Truckee River to

Page 463 U. S. 116

the Carson River by constructing the Derby Diversion Dam on the Truckee River, and constructing the Truckee Canal through which the diverted waters would be transported to the Carson River. Experience in the early days of the Project indicated the necessity of a storage reservoir on the Carson River, and accordingly Lahontan Dam was constructed, and Lahontan Reservoir behind that dam was created. The combined waters of the Truckee and Carson Rivers impounded in Lahontan Reservoir are distributed for irrigation and related uses on downstream lands by means of lateral canals within the Newlands Reclamation Project.

Before the works contemplated by the Project went into operation, a number of private landowners had established rights to water in the Truckee River under Nevada law. The Government also asserted on behalf of the Indians of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation a reserved right under the so-called "implied-reservation-of-water" doctrine set forth in Winters v. United States,207 U. S. 564 (1908). [Footnote 1] The United States therefore filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada in March 1913, commencing what became known as the Orr Ditch litigation. The Government, for the benefit of both the Project and the Pyramid Lake Reservation, asserted a claim to 10,000 cubic feet of water per second for the Project and a claim to 500 cubic feet per second for the Reservation. The complaint named as defendants all water users on the Truckee River in Nevada. The Government expressly sought a final decree quieting title to the rights of all parties.

Page 463 U. S. 117

Following several years of hearings, a Special Master issued a report and proposed decree in July, 1924. The report awarded the Reservation an 1859 priority date in the Truckee River for 58.7 second-feet and 12,412 acre-feet annually of water to irrigate 3,130 acres of Reservation lands. [Footnote 2] The Project was awarded a 1902 priority date for 1,500 cubic feet per second to irrigate, to the extent the amount would allow, [Footnote 3] 232,800 acres of land within the Project. In February, 1926, the District Court entered a temporary restraining order declaring the water rights as proposed by the Special Master. "One of the primary purposes" for entering a temporary order was to allow for an experimental period during which modifications of the declared rights could be made if necessary. App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 81-2245, p. 186a (hereafter Nevada App.).

Not until almost 10 years later, in the midst of a prolonged drought, was interest stimulated in concluding the Orr Ditch litigation. Settlement negotiations were commenced in 1934 by the principal organizational defendants in the case, Washoe County Water Conservation District and the Sierra Pacific Power Co., and the representatives of the

Page 463 U. S. 118

Project and the Reservation. The United States still acted on behalf of the Reservation's interests, but the Project was now under the management of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID). [Footnote 4] The defendants and TCID proposed an agreement along the lines of the temporary restraining order. The United States objected, demanding an increase in the Reservation's water rights to allow for the irrigation of an additional 2,745 acres of Reservation land. After some resistance, the Government's demand was accepted and a settlement agreement was signed on July 1, 1935. The District Court entered a final decree adopting the agreement on September 8, 1944. [Footnote 5] No appeal was taken. Thus, 31 years after its inception the Orr Ditch litigation came to a close.

On December 21, 1973, the Government instituted the action below seeking additional rights to the Truckee River for the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation; the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe was permitted to intervene in support of the United States. The Government named as defendants all persons presently claiming water rights to the Truckee River and its tributaries in Nevada. The defendants include the defendants in the Orr Ditch litigation and their successors, approximately 3,800 individual farmers that own land in the Newlands Reclamation Project, and TCID. The District Court certified the Project farmers as a class and directed TCID to represent their interests. [Footnote 6]

Page 463 U. S. 119

In its complaint, the Government purported not to dispute the rights decreed in the Orr Ditch case. Instead, it alleged that Orr Ditch determined only the Reservation's right to "water for irrigation," Nevada App. 157a, not the claim now being asserted for

"sufficient waters of the Truckee River . . . [for] the maintenance and preservation of Pyramid Lake, [and for] the maintenance of the lower reaches of the Truckee River as a natural spawning ground for fish,"

id. at 155a-156a. The complaint further averred that, in establishing the Reservation, the United States had intended that the Pyramid Lake fishery be maintained. Since the additional water now being claimed is allegedly necessary for that purpose, the Government alleged that the Executive Order creating the Reservation must have impliedly reserved a right to this water. [Footnote 7]

The defendants below asserted res judicata as an affirmative defense, saying that the United States and the Tribe were precluded by the Orr Ditch decree from litigating this claim. Following a separate trial on this issue, the District Court sustained the defense and dismissed the complaint in its entirety.

In its decision, the District Court first determined that all of the parties in this action were parties, or in privity with

Page 463 U. S. 120

parties, in the Orr Ditch case. The District Court then found that the Orr Ditch litigation

"was intended by all concerned, lawyers, litigants and judges, as a general, all-inclusive water adjudication suit which sought to adjudicate all rights and claims in and to the waters of the Truckee . . . and required all parties to fully set up their respective water right claims."

Nevada App. 185a. The court determined that, in accordance with this general intention, the United States had intended in Orr Ditch "to assert as large a water right as possible for the Indian reservation." Nevada App. 185a. The District Court further explained:

"[T]he cause of action sought to be asserted in this proceeding by the plaintiff and the Tribe is the same quiet title cause of action asserted by the plaintiff in Orr Ditch for and on behalf of the Tribe and its members, that is, a Winters implied and reserved water right for the benefit of the reservation, with a priority date of December 8, 1859, from a single source of water supply, i.e., the Truckee Watershed. The plaintiff and the Tribe may not litigate several different types of water use claims, all arising under the Winters doctrine and all derived from the same water source in a piecemeal fashion. There was but one cause of action in equity to quiet title in plaintiff and the Tribe based upon the Winters reserved right theory."

Id. at 188a.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. 649 F.2d 1286 (1981), modified, 666 F.2d 351 (1982). The Court of Appeals agreed that the causes of action asserted in Orr Ditch and the instant litigation are the same, and that the United States and the Tribe cannot relitigate this cause of action with the Orr Ditch defendants or subsequent appropriators of the Truckee River. But the Court of Appeals found that the Orr Ditch decree did not conclude the dispute between the Tribe and the owners of Newlands Project lands. The court said that litigants are not to be bound by a prior judgment unless they were adversaries

Page 463 U. S. 121

under the earlier pleadings or unless the specific issue in dispute was actually litigated in the earlier case and the court found that neither exception applied here.

The Court of Appeals conceded that "[a] strict adversity requirement does not necessarily fit the realities of water adjudications." 649 F.2d at 1309. Nevertheless, the court found that, since neither the Tribe nor the Project landowners were parties in Orr Ditch, but instead were both represented by the United States, and since their interests may have conflicted in that proceeding, the court would not find that the Government had intended to bind these nonparties inter se absent a specific statement of adversity in the pleadings. We granted certiorari in the cases challenging the Court of Appeals' decision, 459 U.S. 904 (1982), and we now affirm in part and reverse in part.

II

The Government opens the "Summary of Argument" portion of its brief by stating:

"The court of appeals has simply permitted a reallocation of the water decreed in Orr Ditch to a single party -- the United States -- from reclamation uses to a Reservation use with an earlier priority. The doctrine of res judicata does not bar a single party from reallocating its water in this fashion. . . ."

Brief for United States 21. We are bound to say that the Government's position, if accepted, would do away with half a century of decided case law relating to the Reclamation Act of 1902 and water rights in the public domain of the West.

It is undisputed that the primary purpose of the Government in bringing the Orr Ditch suit in 1913 was to secure water rights for the irrigation of land that would be contained in the Newlands Project, and that the Government was acting under the aegis of the Reclamation Act of 1902 in bringing that action. [Footnote 8] Section 8 of that Act provides:

Page 463 U. S. 122

"That nothing in this Act shall be construed as affecting or intended to affect or to in any way interfere with the laws of any State or Territory relating to the control, appropriation, use, or distribution of water used in irrigation, or any vested right acquired thereunder, and the Secretary of the Interior, in carrying out the provisions of this Act, shall proceed in conformity with such laws, and nothing herein shall in any way affect any right of any State or of the Federal Government or of any landowner, appropriator, or user of water in, to, or from any interstate stream or the waters thereof: Provided, That the right to the use of water acquired under the provisions of this Act shall be appurtenant to the land irrigated, and beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure, and the limit of the right."

32 Stat. 390. In California v. United States,438 U. S. 645 (1978), we described in greater detail the history and structure of the Reclamation Act of 1902, and stated:

"The projects would be built on federal land and the actual construction and operation of the projects would be in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior. But the Act clearly provided that state water law would control in the appropriation and later distribution of the water."

Id. at 438 U. S. 664 (emphasis added).

In two leading cases, Ickes v. Fox,300 U. S. 82 (1937), and Nebraska v. Wyoming,325 U. S. 589 (1945), this Court has

Page 463 U. S. 123

discussed the beneficial ownership of water rights in irrigation projects built pursuant to the Reclamation Act. In Ickes v. Fox, the Court said:

"Although the government diverted, stored and distributed the water, the contention of petitioner that thereby ownership of the water or water rights became vested in the United States is not well founded. Appropriation was made not for the use of the government, but, under the Reclamation Act, for the use of the landowners; and by the terms of the law and of the contract already referred to, the water rights became the property of the landowners, wholly distinct from the property right of the government in the irrigation works. Compare Murphy v. Kerr, 296 Fed. 536, 544, 545. The government was and remained simply a carrier and distributor of the water (ibid.), with the right to receive the sums stipulated in the contracts as reimbursement for the cost of construction and annual charges for operation and maintenance of the works. As security therefor, it was provided that the government should have a lien upon the lands and the water rights appurtenent thereto -- a provision which, in itself, imports that the water rights belong to another than the lienor, that is to say, to the landowner."

"The federal government, as owner of the public domain, had the power to dispose of the land and water composing it together or separately; and by the Desert Land Act of 1877 (c. 107, 19 Stat. 377), if not before, Congress had severed the land and waters constituting the public domain and established the rule that for the future the lands should be patented separately. Acquisition of the government title to a parcel of land was not to carry with it a water right; but all non-navigable waters were reserved for the use of the public under the

Page 463 U. S. 124

laws of the various arid-land states. California Power Co. v. Beaver Cement Co.,295 U. S. 142, 295 U. S. 162. And in those states, generally, including the State of Washington, it long has been established law that the right to the use of water can be acquired only by prior appropriation for a beneficial use; and that such right, when thus obtained, is a property right which, when acquired for irrigation, becomes, by state law and here by express provision of the Reclamation Act as well, part and parcel of the land upon which it is applied."

300 U.S. at 300 U. S. 94-96. In Nebraska v. Wyoming, the Court stated:

"The Secretary of the Interior, pursuant to § 3 of the Reclamation Act, withdrew from public entry certain public lands in Nebraska and Wyoming which were required for the North Platte Project and the Kendrick Project. Initiation of both projects was accompanied by filings made pursuant to § 8 in the name of the Secretary of the Interior for and on behalf of the United States. Those filings were accepted by the state officials as adequate under state law. They established the priority dates for the projects. There were also applications to the States for permits to construct canals and ditches. They described the land to be served. The orders granting the applications fixed the time for completion of the canal, for application of the water to the land, and for proof of appropriation. Individual water users contracted with the United States for the use of project water. These contracts were later assumed by the irrigation districts. Irrigation districts submitted proof of beneficial use to the state authorities on behalf of the project water users. The state authorities accepted that proof and issued decrees and certificates in favor of the individual water users. The certificates named as appropriators the individual landowners. They designated the number of acres included, the use for which

Page 463 U. S. 125

the appropriation was made, the amount of the appropriation, and the priority date. The contracts between the United States and the irrigation districts provided that, after the stored water was released from the reservoir, it was under the control of the appropriate state officials."

"All of these steps make plain that those projects were designed, constructed and completed according to the pattern of state law as provided in the Reclamation Act. We can say here what was said in Ickes v. Fox, supra, pp. 300 U. S. 94-95:"

"Although the government diverted, stored and distributed the water, the contention of petitioner that thereby ownership of the water or water rights became vested in the United States is not well founded. Appropriation was made not for the use of the government, but, under the Reclamation Act, for the use of the landowners; and, by the terms of the law and of the contract already referred to, the water rights became the property of the landowners, wholly distinct from the property right of the government in the irrigation works. Compare Murphy v. Kerr, 296 Fed. 536, 544, 545. The government was and remained simply a carrier and distributor of the water (ibid.), with the right to receive the sums stipulated in the contracts as reimbursement for the cost of construction and annual charges for operation and maintenance of the works."

"The property right in the water right is separate and distinct from the property right in the reservoirs, ditches or canals. The water right is appurtenant to the land, the owner of which is the appropriator. The water right is acquired by perfecting an appropriation, i.e., by an actual diversion followed by an application within a reasonable time of the water to a beneficial use. See Murphy v. Kerr, 296 F. 536, 542, 544, 545; Commonwealth Power Co. v. State Board, 94 Neb. 613, 143 N.W. 937; Kersenbrock v. Boyes, 95 Neb. 407, 145

Page 463 U. S. 126

N.W. 837. Indeed, § 8 of the Reclamation Act provides as we have seen that"

"the right to the use of water acquired under the provisions of this Act shall be appurtenant to the land irrigated, and beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure, and the limit of the right."

325 U.S. at 325 U. S. 613-614. The law of Nevada, in common with most other Western States, requires for the perfection of a water right for agricultural purposes that the water must be beneficially used by actual application on the land. Prosole v. Steamboat Canal Co., 37 Nev. 154, 159-161, 140 P. 720, 722 (1914). Such a right is appurtenant to the land on which it is used. Id. at 160-161, 140 P., at 722.

In the light of these cases, we conclude that the Government is completely mistaken if it believes that the water rights confirmed to it by the Orr Ditch decree in 1944 for use in irrigating lands within the Newlands Reclamation Project were like so many bushels of wheat, to be bartered, sold, or shifted about as the Government might see fit. Once these lands were acquired by settlers in the Project, the Government's "ownership" of the water rights was, at most, nominal; the beneficial interest in the rights confirmed to the Government resided in the owners of the land within the Project to which these water rights became appurtenant upon the application of Project water to the land. As in Ickes v. Fox and Nebraska v. Wyoming, the law of the relevant State and the contracts entered into by the landowners and the United States make this point very clear. [Footnote 9]

Page 463 U. S. 127

The Government's brief is replete with references to its fiduciary obligation to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians, as it properly should be. But the Government seems wholly to ignore in the same brief the obligations that necessarily devolve upon it from having mere title to water rights for the Newlands Project, when the beneficial ownership of these water rights resides elsewhere.

Both the briefs of the parties and the opinion of the Court of Appeals focus their analysis of res judicata on provisions relating to the relationship between private trustees and fiduciaries, especially those governing a breach of duty by the fiduciary to the beneficiary. While these undoubtedly provide useful analogies in cases such as these, they cannot be regarded as finally dispositive of the issues. This Court has long recognized "the distinctive obligation of trust incumbent upon the Government" in its dealings with Indian tribes, see, e.g., Seminole Nation v. United States,316 U. S. 286, 316 U. S. 296 (1942). These concerns have been traditionally focused on the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of the Interior. Poafpybitty v. Skelly Oil Co.,390 U. S. 365, 390 U. S. 374 (1968). See 25 U.S.C. § 1.

Page 463 U. S. 128

But Congress in its wisdom, when it enacted the Reclamation Act of 1902, required the Secretary of the Interior to assume substantial obligations with respect to the reclamation of arid lands in the western part of the United States. Additionally, in § 26 of the Act of Apr. 21, 1904, 33 Stat. 225, Congress provided for the inclusion of irrigable lands of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation within the Newlands Project, and further authorized the Secretary, after allotting five acres of such land to each Indian belonging to the Reservation, to reclaim and dispose of the remainder of the irrigable Reservation land to settlers under the Reclamation Act.

Today, particularly from our vantage point nearly half a century after the enactment of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 984, 25 U.S.C. § 461 et seq., it may well appear that Congress was requiring the Secretary of the Interior to carry water on at least two shoulders when it delegated to him both the responsibility for the supervision of the Indian tribes and the commencement of reclamation projects in areas adjacent to reservation lands. But Congress chose to do this, and it is simply unrealistic to suggest that the Government may not perform its obligation to represent Indian tribes in litigation when Congress has obliged it to represent other interests as well. In this regard, the Government cannot follow the fastidious standards of a private fiduciary, who would breach his duties to his single beneficiary solely by representing potentially conflicting interests without the beneficiary's consent. The Government does not "compromise" its obligation to one interest that Congress obliges it to represent by the mere fact that it simultaneously performs another task for another interest that Congress has obligated it by statute to do.

With these observations in mind, we turn to the principles of res judicata that we think are involved in this case.

III

Recent cases in which we have discussed principles of estoppel by judgment include Federated Department Stores,

Page 463 U. S. 129

Inc. v. Moitie,452 U. S. 394 (1981); Allen v. McCurry,449 U. S. 90 (1980); Brown v. Felsen,442 U. S. 127 (1979); Montana v. United States,440 U. S. 147 (1979). But what we said with respect to this doctrine more than 80 years ago is still true today; it ensures

"the very object for which civil courts have been established, which is to secure the peace and repose of society by the settlement of matters capable of judicial determination. Its enforcement is essential to the maintenance of social order; for, the aid of judicial tribunals would not be invoked for the vindication of rights of person and property, if . . . conclusiveness did not attend the judgments of such tribunals."

Southern Pacific R. Co. v. United States,168 U. S. 1, 168 U. S. 49 (1897). [Footnote 10]

Simply put, the doctrine of res judicata provides that, when a final judgment has been entered on the merits of a case,

"[i]t is a finality as to the claim or demand in controversy,

Page 463 U. S. 130

concluding parties and those in privity with them, not only as to every matter which was offered and received to sustain or defeat the claim or demand, but as to any other admissible matter which might have been offered for that purpose."

Cromwell v. County of Sac,94 U. S. 351, 94 U. S. 352 (1877). The final "judgment puts an end to the cause of action, which cannot again be brought into litigation between the parties upon any ground whatever." Commissioner v. Sunnen,333 U. S. 591, 333 U. S. 597 (1948). See Chicot County Drainage District v. Baxter State Bank,308 U. S. 371, 308 U. S. 375, 308 U. S. 378 (1940). [Footnote 11]

To determine the applicability of res judicata to the facts before us, we must decide first if the "cause of action" which the Government now seeks to assert is the "same cause of action" that was asserted in Orr Ditch; we must then decide whether the parties in the instant proceeding are identical to or in privity with the parties in Orr Ditch. We address these questions in turn.

A

Definitions of what constitutes the "same cause of action" have not remained static over time. Compare Restatement of Judgments § 61 (1942) with Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 24 (1982). [Footnote 12] See generally 1B J. Moore, J. Lucas, &

Page 463 U. S. 131

T. Currier, Moore's Federal Practice

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