Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


decided: May 31, 1949.



Vinson, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge, Burton

Author: Reed

[ 337 U.S. Page 89]

 MR. JUSTICE REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Secretary of the Interior on May 22, 1943, issued Public Land Order 128. It is set out in full below.*fn1 In this case the significant part of No. 128 is that the Secretary included in the reservation, by paragraph 2, adjacent tidelands and coastal waters along the entire shore line of the uplands that touched Shelikof Strait between Kodiak Island and the Alaska Peninsula. The authority of the Secretary to utilize presidential power in the designation of this reservation out of public lands in Alaska flows from a delegation to the Secretary of presidential power to withdraw or reserve public lands and revoke or

[ 337 U.S. Page 90]

     modify prior reservations. Executive Order No. 9146, of April 24, 1942, 1 C. F. R., Cum. Supp. 1149. The presidential power over reservations is made specific by the Act of June 25, 1910.*fn2 Another statutory provision, however, is the principal basis for Order 128. This is

[ 337 U.S. Page 91]

     § 2 of the Act of May 1, 1936, 49 Stat. 1250. This act was passed to extend to Alaska the benefits of the Wheeler-Howard Act of June 18, 1934, 48 Stat. 984, and to provide for the designation of Indian reservations in Alaska. As § 2 is important in our discussion, the pertinent provisions are set out in full:

"SEC. 2. That the Secretary of the Interior is hereby authorized to designate as an Indian reservation any area of land which has been reserved for the use and occupancy of Indians or Eskimos by section 8 of the Act of May 17, 1884 (23 Stat. 26), or by section 14 or section 15 of the Act of March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 1101), or which has been heretofore reserved under any executive order and placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior or any bureau thereof, together with additional public lands adjacent thereto, within the Territory of Alaska, or any other public lands which are actually occupied by Indians or Eskimos within said Territory: Provided, That the designation by the Secretary of the Interior of any such area of land as a reservation shall be effective only upon its approval by the vote, by secret ballot, of a majority of the Indian or Eskimo residents thereof who vote at a special election duly called by the Secretary of the Interior upon thirty days' notice: . . . ."

The Native Village of Karluk held a meeting on May 23, 1944, and accepted "the proposed Indian Reservation for this village. The adoption of said Reservation passed by a vote of 46 for and 0 against. 11 of the eligible voters were absent." See note 26, infra. Under § 19 of the Wheeler-Howard Act the Alaskan aborigines are classified as Indians.

On March 22 and August 27, 1946, the Secretary of the Interior amended the Alaska Fisheries General Regulations,

[ 337 U.S. Page 9250]

     C. F. R., 1946 Supp., § 208.23, that related to the commercial fishing for salmon in the Kodiak Area Fisheries by the addition of a subsection (r), reading as follows:

"(r) All waters within 3,000 feet of the shores of Karluk Reservation (Public Land Order No. 128, May 22, 1943), beginning at a point on the east shore of Shelikof Strait, on Kodiak Island, latitude 57 degrees 32 minutes 30 seconds N., thence northeasterly along said shore to a point 57 degrees 39 minutes 40 seconds.

"The foregoing prohibition shall not apply to fishing by natives in possession of said reservation, nor to fishing by other persons under authority granted by said natives (49 Stat. 1250; 48 U. S. C. 358a). Such authority shall be granted only by or pursuant to ordinance of the Native Village of Karluk, approved by the Secretary of the Interior or his duly authorized representative." 11 Fed. Reg. 3105, 9528.

The authority for the regulation is given as 34 Stat. 263 and 478, as amended by the Act of June 6, 1924, 43 Stat. 464, an Act for the protection of the fisheries of Alaska, known as the White Act.*fn3 As the controlling section of this statute also is important, it is set out here,*fn4 44 Stat. 752:

"SECTION 1. That for the purpose of protecting and conserving the fisheries of the United States in all waters of Alaska the Secretary of Commerce from time to time may set apart and reserve fishing areas in any of the waters of Alaska over which the United

[ 337 U.S. Page 93]

     States has jurisdiction, and within such areas may establish closed seasons during which fishing may be limited or prohibited as he may prescribe. Under this authority to limit fishing in any area so set apart and reserved the Secretary may (a) fix the size and character of nets, boats, traps, or other gear and appliances to be used therein; (b) limit the catch of fish to be taken from any area; (c) make such regulations as to time, means, methods, and extent of fishing as he may deem advisable. From and after the creation of any such fishing area and during the time fishing is prohibited therein it shall be unlawful to fish therein or to operate therein any boat, seine, trap, or other gear or apparatus for the purpose of taking fish; and from and after the creation of any such fishing area in which limited fishing is permitted such fishing shall be carried on only during the time, in the manner, to the extent, and in conformity with such rules and regulations as the Secretary prescribes under the authority herein given: Provided, That every such regulation made by the Secretary of Commerce shall be of general application within the particular area to which it applies, and that no exclusive or several right of fishery shall be granted therein, nor shall any citizen of the United States be denied the right to take, prepare, cure, or preserve fish or shellfish in any area of the waters of Alaska where fishing is permitted by the Secretary of Commerce. . . ." (See for definition of "several," 2 Bl. Com. 39-40.)

These are the statutes and orders that created the situation that led to this litigation.

The issuance of the White Act regulation of March 22, 1946, brought concern to the commercial fishing interests of Alaska. This was because of its drastic penalties. See note 49, infra. The native village of Karluk

[ 337 U.S. Page 94]

     spoken of in Order No. 128 establishing the reservation is situated on the Karluk River, long recognized as one of the most important salmon spawning streams of Alaska. The natives live at its mouth on Shelikof Strait. There the salmon must congregate from the Strait to enter the channel of the river leading to their spawning grounds in the interior of Kodiak Island. The waters included in the reservation are those stretching eight miles along the coast north and south of the mouth, 3,000 feet into the Strait. Thus the best of the Karluk salmon fishery is put into the reservation by Order No. 128.*fn5 For an understanding of the locality, a sketch map is appended.

The importance of the Karluk fishery will be appreciated by reference to a few of the facts in connection with it. When Russia ceded Alaska to the United States in 1867, 15 Stat. 539, Karluk was already well known as an abundant salmon fishery.*fn6 By 1885 the salmon canneries were flourishing and Bancroft reports the Karluk pack at 36,000 cases out of a total of 65,000.*fn7 The production continued large.*fn8 The red salmon was most prolific. There were variations in the catch but it was

[ 337 U.S. Page 95]

     always valuable.*fn9 In later years, the fluctuations continued and other varieties increased relatively.*fn10

None of the respondent companies have packing plants at Karluk. All are, however, on Kodiak Island, which is around 100 miles long and 50 broad, and within fishing distance of the reservation waters. There is a fish refrigeration plant on the river. These canners have canned fish from these waters for from seven to twenty-four years. The percentage of each canner's pack that comes from the reserved waters is so large that the trial court found irreparable injury to the packers if they could not obtain the catch of the reservation. ". . . no other replacement source of such salmon for their canneries

[ 337 U.S. Page 96]

     on Kodiak Island is available to them." The canners' investment is substantial, running from two to five hundred thousand dollars respectively. The fishing is done by men who own their own three- to four-man boats, use similar company boats or operate under boat-buying contracts. Prices for the catch vary for these classifications. These packers employ over four hundred fishermen, chiefly residents of Alaska, and over six hundred cannery employees, chiefly nonresidents.

The fishing season at Karluk begins around June 1 and continues intermittently, depending upon the run of fish, until Sept. 30. After the issuance of § 208.23 (r) restricting the fishery at Karluk Reservation to Karluk natives and licensees, respondents brought this action against the Regional Director for the Territory of Alaska of the Fish and Wildlife Service to permanently enjoin the exclusion of their fishermen from the reservation on the ground that neither regulation § 208.23 (r) nor Public Land Order No. 128 legally closed the fishery of the coastal waters to respondents. The District Court granted the permanent injunction and held invalid both the regulation and the land order. 67 F.Supp. 43. On the same grounds the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the order for permanent injunction. 165 F.2d 323.


(a) At the outset the United States contends that the Secretary of the Interior is an indispensable party who must be joined as a party defendant in order to give the District Court jurisdiction of this suit. In Williams v. Fanning, 332 U.S. 490, the test as to whether a superior official can be dispensed with as a party was stated to be whether "the decree which is entered will effectively grant the relief desired by expending itself on the subordinate official who is before the court." P. 494. Such

[ 337 U.S. Page 97]

     is the precise situation here. Nothing is required of the Secretary; he does not have to perform any act, either directly or indirectly. Respondents merely seek an injunction restraining petitioner from interfering with their fishing. No affirmative action is required of petitioner, and if he and his subordinates cease their interference, respondents have been accorded all the relief which they seek. The issues of the instant suit can be settled by a decree between these parties without having the Secretary of the Interior as a party to the litigation.

(b) Petitioner, Regional Director for the Territory of Alaska of the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Interior Department, is charged with the duty of enforcing the acts of Congress relating to the fisheries of Alaska and regulations issued thereunder. The District Court found that since March 22, 1946, the effective date of § 208.23 (r) of the Alaska Fisheries General Regulations, petitioner has continually threatened the seizure of all boats and equipment used to fish in the waters covered by this regulation to respondents' substantial and irreparable loss, and that the seasonal run of salmon in the reservation waters was essential for respondents' profitable operation. From the following facts it will be seen that there is sufficient evidence to support these findings.

After the promulgation of the fishery regulation, § 208.23 (r), the Warden for the Fish and Wildlife Service on Kodiak Island, one of petitioner's subordinate agents, repeatedly informed officials of the canneries that the regulation would be enforced and that the necessary steps would be taken to prosecute any violations. He communicated to the representatives of the canneries the contents of a telegram in which petitioner directed that a case to test the regulation be arranged for the opening day of the fishing season. The contents of this telegram were relayed to the headquarters in Seattle of the Alaska Salmon Industry, Inc., a trade association of the canned

[ 337 U.S. Page 98]

     salmon packers of which all but one of respondents are members. Thence the information was distributed to all interested parties. The Kodiak warden then reiterated to the cannery operators on that island his intention to enforce the regulation even though his force and equipment were inadequate for the purpose.

Thereafter two officers of the Indian Service were appointed special agents for the Fish and Wildlife Service to assist in the enforcement of the fishing regulations issued by the Interior Department. They arrived at Karluk June 24, 1946. These two deputies were armed and maintained a boat patrol in the waters of the reservation. They checked the names of boats fishing in the waters of the reservation against the permits issued by the village of Karluk. No boats were allowed inside the area which had been restricted for beach seining by vote of the Indian meeting of May 23, 1944,*fn11 and which was marked off by buoys.

If respondents show that they are without an adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable injury unless the enforcement of the alleged invalid regulation is restrained, a civil court will enjoin.*fn12 While ordinarily

[ 337 U.S. Page 99]

     criminal prosecutions will not be restrained even under an invalid statute,*fn13 a civil action will lie in exceptional circumstances that make an injunction necessary to effectually protect property rights.*fn14

The facts heretofore detailed as to the investments of respondents in canneries and fishing equipment and their established activities in the waters of the reservation make clear the serious effect on them of exclusion from the reservation. It is not a threat of a single prosecution, as in the Spielman case, but an ousting of respondents and their employees from the fishing grounds unless each individual person takes a fishing license. Under the findings the respondents could not operate profitably if prohibited from fishing in the reservation area. Many fishermen may stay away from the grounds for fear of punishment. In the pursuit of their otherwise lawful business respondents are threatened with criminal prosecution should they fish in the waters of the Karluk Reservation without a permit from the native village. For the violation of the applicable regulation under the White Act, severe penalties are imposed, including fine, imprisonment, the summary seizure of boats, haul, gear, equipment, and their forfeiture to the United States.*fn15 These sanctions deny to respondents an adequate remedy at law, for to challenge the regulation in an ordinary criminal proceeding is to hazard a loss against the payment of a license fee and compliance with the fishing rules of the natives. Yet to stay out of the reservation prevents the profitable operation of the canneries. In such a situation

[ 337 U.S. Page 100]

     a majority of the Court thinks that the "danger of irreparable loss is both great and immediate" and properly calls forth the jurisdiction of the court of equity.*fn16


Respondents sought this injunction forbidding criminal proceedings aimed at excluding them from fishing in the coastal waters of Karluk Reservation on the ground that Public Land Order No. 128, note 1, supra, was invalid as a whole and particularly because of the inclusion of tidelands and coastal waters by § 2 of the order.

Respondents attack in their complaint the validity of the entire order because "no part of the land area involved had been withdrawn by Executive Order and placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior prior to May 1, 1936, as required by the Act of May 1, 1936." This position has not been pressed or decided.*fn17 The final order for an injunction against petitioner does not include any ruling on that point.

Nor do we think the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to establish the Karluk Reservation, Public Land Order 128, by virtue of the use and occupancy of the area by the natives under § 8 of the Act of May 17, 1884, 23 Stat. 26, or §§ 14 or 15 of the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1101, need be decided. While the point is referred to in the briefs, no such issue was tendered by the complaint; no such point was raised by the assignments of error; the question was specifically pretermitted by the opinion of the Court of Appeals, 165 F.2d at 325; it is not included in the questions presented by the petition for

[ 337 U.S. Page 101]

     certiorari and is not relied upon by the respondents to require affirmance of the Court of Appeals decree.

(a) The validity of Public Land Order 128 depends in this case on the scope of the power granted to the Secretary to establish this reservation by the language of § 2 of the Act of May 1, 1936, supra, authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to designate as a reservation "any other public lands which are actually occupied by Indians or Eskimos within said Territory." An administrative order is presumptively valid.*fn18

In this instance, the Secretary acted under a statute, § 2, Act of May 1, 1936, and through delegation of presidential authority.*fn19 This delegation in turn rested on the Act of June 25, 1910, 36 Stat. 847.*fn20 This chain of delegated authority for the allocation of public lands in Alaska retains for future congressional action the power for the ultimate disposition of the property, land and water, within the boundaries of the reservation. Withdrawals under the Act of June 25, 1910, are "temporary" and "until revoked by him or by an Act of Congress."

The Wheeler-Howard Act of June 18, 1934, "To conserve and develop Indian lands and resources," which was extended to the Territory of Alaska by § 1 of the Act of May 1, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.