U.S. Supreme Court
Jackson v. United States, 230 U.S. 1 (1913)
Jackson v. United States
Submitted January 10, 1913
Decided June 16, 1913
230 U.S. 1
This Court considers it a grave error for the court charged with the duty of making findings of fact to include mere conclusions of law.
Statements as to what the relation of the United States is to levee work on the Mississippi River and what the power of the Mississippi River Commission over all such work is by whomsoever performed are conclusions of law, and not of fact.
Congress did not, by the creation of the Mississippi River Commission, assume entire control of the levee work to the displacement of state or local authorities who continued to construct levees for protection from overflow which combined with those constructed by the United States for improvement of navigation, so that eventually a complete system would be evolved.
Damages, if any, by overflowing adjacent lands occasioned by the levee system of the Mississippi River Valley could only result from concurrent action of the United States, the states, and their subordinate agencies and individuals, all impelled by different considerations but all working towards the common end of having an efficient and continuous line of levees. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
An individual owner has no right to insist that primitive conditions be suffered to remain, and thus all progress and development be rendered impossible.
An individual owner protecting his own property from a common natural danger acquires no right thereby to insist that other owners or the government shall adopt the same method, or that they shall not adopt different methods for the protection of their respective properties or for the public good.
The United States is not responsible for damages by overflow or for failure to construct additional levees along the Mississippi River Valley, so as to afford increased protection from increased overflow caused by the levees that were constructed by state and federal authority at other points; nor do such damages amount to taking the land overflowed for public use within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment.
The rule that the United States has plenary power to legislate for the benefit of navigation and is not liable for remote or consequential damages caused by works constructed to that end has already been directly applied to the work of the Mississippi River Commission. Bedford v. United States, 192 U. S. 225.
The facts, which involve the question of liability of the United States for damages alleged to have been sustained by the owner of a plantation in the Mississippi River Valley by reason of the improvement of the Mississippi River under direction of the federal Commission charged with that work, are stated in the opinion.