Title: State of California vs. Yuba Goldfields Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1979-1985
Box Number: 1754-1794
California State Library
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[Identification of item], State of California vs. Yuba Goldfields Collection, California
Yuba River (Calif.) --Navigation --Law and legislation
Inland navigation --Law and legislation --California
Marysville (Calif.) --History
Briefs and court decisions from 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and Supreme Court,
settlement agreement, trial briefs, complaints and answer motion for summary judgment,
listing and analysis of exhibits, comments on navigability, plaintiff and defendant
exhibits, depositions of witnesses, trial transcripts
The principal factual issue in the case was whether the Yuba River was navigable in 1850
(year of admission of California into the Union) from Marysville upstream to about Mile
18. The Plaintiff took the position it was navigable, but the Defendants opposed. The
significance of this issue was that if navigable, the Plaintiff would own the bed of the
river as it existed in 1850, otherwise, it would be owned by the Defendants or others.
In this instance the precise lands involved were a some 400 feet wide running from about
Mile 8 to Mile 18, with the United States having record fee ownership of the surface and
Yuba the precious metals in some areas, and each owning the entire fee in other tracts.
The approximate time period covered was early 1800 to early 1900. This evidence generated
more documents, plus all the briefs, depositions, and trial transcripts associated with
Recognized historians of note were arrayed on all sides, including W. Turrintine Jackson
for the State, William H. Hutchinson and Joe Hagwood for the United States, and John
Thompson for Yuba. The attorneys were Richard Frank and Blake Stevenson for the State,
Mary Beth Uitti and Don Denney for the United States, and Lloyd Hinkleman and Andrea
Miller for Yuba.
The case was filed by the State on October 19, 1979. After the usual preliminary
skirmishes, it went to trial before the Honorable Paul A. Ramirez on February 15, 1983
and proceeded intermittently through May 3, 1983.
The Judge rendered an intermediate decision on July 22, 1983, not on the merits of the
case but on a motion for dismissal by the United States that the Court did not have the
jurisdiction of the Federal interests because of a 12-year statute of limitations. A
decision of the Supreme Court had just been issued on a similar question that the Federal
statute would run against a state the same as an individual. The Judge followed that
decision and dismissed the United States, which had the effect of the State not being
able to get title to any of the record interests of the United States.
The State appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which affirmed on
January 21, 1985. The State then pursued the matter to the Supreme Court, which denied
the Writ of Certiorari on December 2, 1985. This ended the case insofar as it concerned
the interests of the United States.
However, with regard to Yuba`s interests, the statute did not run against them, and the
case could have continued to trial to decide the navigability question. At this point the
remaining parties, State and Yuba, entered into an agreement whereby Yuba would quitclaim
all its interests in the bed of the current river and State would quitclaim its claim to
the location of 1850 river located outside the current river.
The net effect of this would be that the state would get ownership of the bed in certain
parts of the river and mineral ownership in others, and Yuba would get clear title in the
old river bed (at least the precious metals) where it desired to continue dredging for
This settlement did not resolve the issue of navigability, which remains to be resolved
on another day with other parties, especially involving the record owners between
Marysville and upstream to about Mile 8.
Title: William H. Hutchinson Collection