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Vaughn v. Vermillion Corp.

Citation: 10 ELR 20050
No. No. 77-1819, 444 U.S. 206/13 ERC 1940/(U.S., 12/04/1979)

The Supreme Court affirms in part and vacates and remands in part a state court's issuance of permanent injunctions against unauthorized use of navigable canals constructed on private property with private funds. The Court's accompanying decision in Kaiser Aetna v. United States, 10 ELR 20042, established that no general public right to use artificially created waterways arises from federal authority over navigation under the Commerce Clause. In this case, there is an issue of fact, however, as to whether respondents destroyed or diverted naturally navigable waterways in the process of constructing these canals. The state court held that the result would be no different if such facts were proven. Because this circumstance might constitute a defense under federal law to the canal owner's prayer for injunctive relief against unauthorized use, the state court erred in granting summary judgment on this point and the case is remanded for further proceedings.

A dissent argues that because the canals are navigable in fact, they are subject to the dominant public interest in free navigation.

Counsel for Petitioners
John K. Hill, Jr.
Mouton, Roy, Carmouche, Bivins & Hill
626 South Buchanan St., Lafayette LA 70502
(318) 233-7430

Counsel for Respondent
Henry McCall, Jr., L. Harvard Scott, III
Chaffe, McCall, Phillips, Toler & Sarpy
1500 Fist National Bank of Commerce Bldg.,
New Orleans LA 70112
(504) 568-1320