United States v. West Virginia
Annotate this Case
295 U.S. 463 (1935)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. West Virginia, 295 U.S. 463 (1935)
United States v. West Virginia
No. 17, original
Argued May 2, 1935
Decided May 20, 1935
295 U.S. 463
1. The original jurisdiction of this Court over suits brought by the United States against a State is only of those cases which are within the judicial power of the United States as defined by Art. III, § 2, of the Constitution. P. 295 U. S. 470.
2. The original jurisdiction of this Court does not include suits by the United States against persons or corporations alone. Id.
3. To sustain jurisdiction over a suit brought in this Court by the United States against a State, the bill must present a "case" or "controversy" to which the State is a party and which is within the judicial power of the United States. Id.
4. In a suit by the United States against a State and private corporations to enjoin the construction by the latter of a dam forming part of a hydroelectric project, the bill alleged the stream in question to be a navigable water of the United States, and that the dam would be an unlawful obstruction, since it had not been
authorized under the Act of March 3, 1899, nor had any license for the project been granted by the Federal Water Power Commission under the Federal Water Power Act. As grounds for joining the State, it was alleged that the State had licensed the project and, through its officials, was denying the navigability of the stream and claiming that the power to permit and control its use for the projected purposes resided in the State, and not in the United States, and claiming that, insofar as the Federal Water Power Act purports to confer upon the Federal Power Commission authority in the premises, the Act is an invasion of the sovereign rights of the State and a violation of the Federal Constitution. The bill did not assert any title of the United States in the bed of the stream which might afford a basis for a suit to remove a cloud on title, nor allege any interference by the State, actual or threatened, with any other property of the United States, or with the navigable capacity of the waters in question or with the exercise of the power claimed by the United States or in behalf of the Federal Power Commission, nor any actual or threatened participation by the State in the construction of the dam other than the granting of a permit, nor that it had issued any permit incompatible with the Federal Water Power Act, or intended to grant licenses in the future. Held that, against the State, the bill presented no question justiciable by a federal court. United States v. Utah, 283 U. S. 64, distinguished. Pp. 295 U. S. 471, 295 U. S. 474.
5. It does not appear in this case that the State has done more than issue such a license as the Federal Water Power Act makes prerequisite to a license from the Federal Power Commission. P. 295 U. S. 473.
6. The Declaratory Judgment Act of June 14, 1934, c. 512, 48 Stat. 955, is applicable only "in cases of actual controversy." It does not purport to alter the character of the controversies which are the subject of the judicial power under the Constitution. P. 295 U. S. 475.
On motions to dismiss a bill brought in this Court by the United States against the State of West Virginia and three private corporations to enjoin the construction of a dam, part of a hydroelectric plant, in a river alleged to be navigable, and for a declaration of the rights of the United States to control the use of the stream, etc.