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Omaecheverria v. Idaho

United States Supreme Court
246 U.S. 343 (1918)


A conflict arose between cattle rangers and sheep herders in the State of Idaho over the use of public lands for cattle and sheep grazing. The cattle refused to graze on ranges occupied by the sheep. The growing sheep presence on land previously occupied by cattle damaged the cattle industry. Violence erupted between the rangers and herders. Because the land was vast and sparsely settled, efficient policing was impossible. To avoid clashes between the rangers and herders, the state legislature enacted a statute that prohibited sheep from grazing on land previously occupied by cattle. However, the land remained open to use by horses. Secundino Omaecheverria (plaintiff), a sheep herder, violated the statute. Omaecheverria was convicted in local police court and sentenced to pay a fine. The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed the judgment. On appeal to the United States Supreme Court, Omaecheverria claimed that the statute (1) violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and (2) conflicted with § 1 of the Unlawful Inclosures Act of 1885, which prohibited the exclusive use and occupancy of public lands.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brandeis, J.)

Dissent (Van Devanter, J.)

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