Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place: The United States Supreme Court Misapplies Statutory Construction Precedent in Bedroc Ltd. v. United States
INTRODUCTION|Beginning in the 1860s, Congress passed a series of land-grant statutes to promote the settlement of the American West. Through these homestead acts the government provided land in fee simple absolute to settlers who entered and cultivated land for a specific number of years. After a perceived coal crisis and widespread fraud in administrating land conveyances, Congress limited land-grants to surface estate patents and reserved the mineral estate to the United States. Due to confusion regarding the interpretation of these mineral reservations, the Supreme Court of the United States began reviewing cases concerning these statutes. In 1983, the Supreme Court reviewed one of these land-grant statutes in Watt v. Western Nuclear, Inc., and determined the land-grant contained the reservation term "mineral," and the term "mineral" included gravel. In 2004, in BedRoc Ltd. v. United States, the Supreme Court of the United States reviewed another one of the land-grant statutes, the Pittman Underground Water Act of 1919 ("the Pittman Act"), and decided the reservation term "valuable minerals" did not encompass sand and gravel. The Court reasoned the terms of the Pittman Act were plain and unambiguous, and the Court need only interpret the reservation terms in their ordinary and popular meaning at the time of enactment...
38 Creighton L. Rev. 1263 (2004-2005)
Creighton University School of Law