Utah v. United States

403 U.S. 9 (1971)

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Utah v. United States

United States Supreme Court
403 U.S. 9 (1971)

  • Written by Robert Cane, JD

Facts

In the 1870s and 1880s, before Utah (plaintiff) was granted statehood, the Great Salt Lake (the lake) was used sporadically as a highway for trade. Several ranchers used the lake for transporting livestock. There were reports of boats using the lake to carry passengers and freight such as ore, salt, and wood. In 1896, Utah was granted statehood. At that time, the lake was about 30 feet deep, so the lake was physically capable of being used as a highway for trade and travel. Sometime later, the United States (defendant) claimed a right to the shorelands around the lake. Utah disputed the claim of the United States and sued the United States to resolve the competing claims over the original bed of the lake made by the two parties. A special master was appointed to determine whether the lake was navigable in 1896, when Utah was admitted to the Union. The special master found that the lake was actually navigable at that time.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Douglas, J.)

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