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U.S. Supreme Court

Enterprise Irrigation Dist. v. Farmers Mut. Canal Co., 243 U.S. 157 (1917)

Enterprise Irrigation District v.

Farmers Mutual Canal Company

No. 48

Argued January 22, 23, 1917

Decided March 6, 1917

243 U.S. 157


In a suit to determine the relative rights of the parties to divert water for irrigation from a stream in Nebraska, the state court decided that superiority of the defendant's appropriation had been conclusively established against the plaintiff, consistently with due process, in proceedings before a state board, and, further and independently, that the plaintiff, having without objection stood by and permitted the defendant to go to enormous expense in the construction of a canal and diverting works, was estopped to question the validity of the defendant's appropriation on which it relied. The ground of estoppel being distinct, nonfederal, and fairly supported by the facts, held that this Court had no jurisdiction to review, although the state board's adjudication was challenged under the Fourteenth Amendment.

When the judgment of a state court is placed upon two grounds, one involving a federal question and the other not, the jurisdiction of this Court depends upon whether the nonfederal ground is independent of the federal ground and also broad enough to sustain the judgment; if so, the judgment does not depend upon the decision of any federal question, and this Court has no power to disturb it.

Where the nonfederal is so interwoven with the federal ground as not to be independent, or, standing alone, is not of sufficient breadth to sustain the judgment, the jurisdiction of this Court attaches.

Where the nonfederal ground is so certainly unfounded that it properly may be regarded as essentially arbitrary, or a mere device to prevent a review of the decision upon the federal question, the judgment rests upon the latter, and may be reviewed here.

But where the nonfederal ground has fair support, this Court may not inquire whether the decision upon it is right or wrong.

Questions of state law do not engage the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Writ of error to review 92 Neb. 121 dismissed.

The case is stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 243 U. S. 158


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