UNITED STATES v. CALIFORNIA

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
5 ORIG
Plaintiff 
United States
Defendant 
California
Opinion 
Advocates
(on behalf of the Plaintiff)
(on behalf of the Defendant)
Tags
Term:
Location: Rincon Island
Facts of the Case 

Rincon Island is artificial island off the coast of Ventura County, California and is connected to the mainland via a causeway. Additionally, there are 15 piers on the coastline. The Submerged Lands Act of 1953 granted to California all land and resources within three miles of the coastline. California and the United States disputed over whether the island and piers were included in this coastline. A special master was appointed to resolve this dispute. The Special Master found that the island and piers did not affect the shoreline, and were therefore not extensions of the coastline. California filed an exception to the Master's finding.

Question 

Do man-made piers and islands qualify as "coast line" under the Submerged Lands Act of 1953?

Conclusion 
Decision: 8 votes for United States, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Submerged Lands Acts

No. In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the Court held that the special master's determination was correct. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger acknowledged the ambiguity in the Submerged Lands Act. However, since the piers and island in dispute did not provide protection, they did not qualify as "harbor works" that would have extended the coastline.

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UNITED STATES v. CALIFORNIA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1979/1979_5_orig>.
UNITED STATES v. CALIFORNIA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1979/1979_5_orig (last visited November 25, 2014).
"UNITED STATES v. CALIFORNIA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 25, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1979/1979_5_orig.