NEW HAMPSHIRE V. MAINE, 426 U. S. 363 (1976)

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U.S. Supreme Court

New Hampshire v. Maine, 426 U.S. 363 (1976)

New Hampshire v. Maine

No. 64, Orig.

Argued April 19, 1976

Decided June 14, 1976

426 U.S. 363


Following institution of this original action by New Hampshire against Maine to locate the lateral marine boundary separating the States between the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor and the entrance to Gosport Harbor in the Isles of Shoals, a settlement agreement was reached and a joint motion was filed for entry of judgment by consent, together with a proposed decree, based on a stipulated record, which the Special Master concluded should be submitted to the Court, at the same time expressing the view that the decree was impermissible under Vermont v. New York, 417 U. S. 270, but recommending its entry if the Court concluded otherwise. Thereafter, the Special Master declared the entire case, including the proposed consent decree, to be under submission. The States had agreed with the Special Master's conclusion that King George II's decree of 1740 fixed the boundary in the Piscataqua (now Portsmouth) Harbor area, but had differed over the location of certain points by the terms of the decree. The consent decree embodied the States' agreement upon the meaning of those terms.


1. Entry of the consent decree proposes a wholly permissible final resolution of the controversy both as to the facts and the law, and comports with the Court's Art. III function. The States' agreement can therefore be effectuated. The proposed decree in Vermont v. New York, supra, provided that "no findings shall be made," and that "it shall not constitute an adjudication of any issue of fact or law, or evidence, or any admission by any party with respect to any such issue," whereas the proposed consent decree here records the States' agreement as to the meaning and extent of hitherto imprecisely described locations in line with the relevant evidence; nor is anything like the "arbitral" function for resolution of future disputes in Vermont v. New York involved in the proposed consent decree here. Pp. 426 U. S. 367-369.

2. Adoption of the proposed consent decree does not involve a compact under Art. I, § 10, cl. 3, requiring the consent of Congress. The application of that Clause is limited to agreements

"directed to the formation of any combination tending to the increase of political power in the States, which may encroach

Page 426 U. S. 364

upon. . . . the just supremacy of the United States,"

Virginia v. Tennessee, 148 U. S. 503, 148 U. S. 519. Here, the litigant States are not adjusting the boundary between them, which was fixed by the 1740 decree; the consent decree simply locates precisely the already existing boundary, and neither State is enhancing its power and threatening supremacy of the Federal Government. Pp. 426 U. S. 369-370.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, MARSHALL, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 426 U. S. 370.

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