Norton v. Whiteside,
239 U.S. 144 (1915)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Norton v. Whiteside, 239 U.S. 144 (1915)

Norton v. Whiteside

No. 55

Argued November 4, 5, 1915

Decided November 29, 1915

239 U.S. 144


A mere formal statement in the bill to the effect that the cause of action is one arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States does not suffice to give this Court jurisdiction to review the judgment of the circuit court of appeals under § 241 Jud.Code -- it must appear that the suit really and substantially involves a dispute or controversy respecting the validity, construction or effect of some law of the United States upon the determination whereof the result depends. Hull v. Burr, 234 U. S. 712.

Riparian rights attaching to property patented by the United States are determined by the law of the state in which the land is situated. Hardin v. Jordan, 140 U. S. 371. ,

The fact that both parties owning parcels of real estate bordering on a navigable boundary river opposite to each other acquired the property from the United States does not change or affect the rule that riparian rights of the parties are to be determined by the law of the respective states in which the properties are situated.

The provisions in the various ordinances and statutes relating to the organization of the Northwest Territory referred to in the bill in this case do not control the riparian rights enjoyed, under the law of the state wherein the property is situated, by parties who acquired the land from the United States within the limits of a state carved out of such Territory.

Page 239 U. S. 145

Averments in a bill as to the general intent of Congress to preserve free navigation of the rivers within the Northwest Territory are unavailing to give jurisdiction to this Court to renew a judgment of the circuit court of appeals in a case otherwise made final by § 128 Jud.Code in the absence of any specific legislation of Congress influencing the determination of an asserted federal question in regard to riparian rights.

The mere fact that Congress directed the improvement of a new channel in a navigable river does not destroy riparian rights existing under state law and create new ones under federal law.

In this case, as the riparian rights asserted by complainant existed, if at all, under the law of the state in which the property is situated and the determination of the issues did not involve the construction of the Constitution or of any law of the United States, but as the jurisdiction rested on diverse citizenship alone, the decree of the Circuit Court is final under § 128, Jud.Code, and this Court ha no jurisdiction to review it under § 241 Jud.Code.

Writ of error to review 205 F. 5 dismissed.

The facts, which involve the jurisdiction of this Court under § 241 Judicial Code to review a judgment of the circuit court of appeals, and the finality of such judgment under § 128 Judicial Code are stated in the opinion.

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