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Cappaert v. United States

ELR Citation: 6 ELR 20540
Nos. No. 74-1107, 426 U.S. 128/(U.S., 06/07/1976) Aff'd

Affirming the lower court decision, 5 ELR 20494, the Court holds the doctrine of implied reservation of rights in water applicable to groundwater and finds express support for such a reservation of appurtenant unappropriated water in the Presidential Proclamation that withdrew land to create Devil's Hole National Monument. Nevada's argument that interests in water must be balanced is rejected. The implied reservation doctrine, recognized in Nevada law as applicable to both surface and groundwater, applies here because of the interrelationship between the two. The Desert Land Act does not require perfection of water rights in accordance with state procedures, nor must water rights be adjudicated in state courts. Although the National Park Service filed a protest in proceedings before the Nevada State Engineer, the United States was never joined as a party, so res judicata and collateral estoppel do not bar this action.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert H. Bork, Solicitor General
A. Raymond Randolph, Jr., Deputy Solicitor General
Walter Kiechel, Jr., Acting Asst. Attorney General
Harry R. Sachse, Asst. to the Solicitor General
Department of Justice
Washington DC 20530
(202) 737-8200

Counsel for Defendant
Samuel S. Lionel
Lionel, Sawyer, Collins & Wartman
800 First National Bank Building
302 East Carson Ave.
Las Vegas NV 89101
(702) 385-2188

George Allison
Peter D. Laxalt
Laxalt, Berry & Allison
402 North Division St.
Carson City NV 89701
(702) 882-0202

Burger, C.J., for a unanimous Court.