United States v. Riverside Bayview Homes

Secondary Discussion Question 8

The Court's opinion begins on page 123.  Except for describing the respondent’s land as "80 acres of low-lying, marshy land near the shores of Lake St. Clair in Macomb County, Michigan" at the bottom of page 124, the Court does not actually describe the respondent’s land until the bottom of page 130 (where, by the way, it mentions a "Black Creek" but not Lake St. Clair). Shouldn’t courts put the facts of the case at the beginning of their opinions?

(View either the Court's initial description or its later description of the property.)

Two Links Local to the Land and Water in the Case

Courtesy of the Utica Chamber of Commerce, here's a map of Michigan's "Water Wonderland" that shows both Macomb County and Lake St. Clair (though not Black Creek).

Note:  In the land where lands are waters, and the people who build dams want to preserve wetlands, it may not surprise you that  the local "Daily" appears to come out once a week--at least the Web version of the Macomb County Daily.

Some Answers to the Question

Courts do typically put the facts of the case at the beginning of the opinion.   Perhaps this is simple tradition, but one may also take it as an indication of the drive towards the particular that has long been a distinctive feature of lawyers and, most especially, of the common law.

This is an opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States, however.  Perhaps appellate courts, and particularly this one, are more concerned with broad issues of policy than with particular facts.  Perhaps the factual findings of the District Court about a particular piece of propety are not really the right thing to call the "facts" in a case concerned with an administrative rule's propriety in light of an authorizing statute.  Or perhaps the Court starts with the relevant law--the statutory definition of "navigable waters" and then a recitation of the Corps' rule--because proceeding from the final output of the legislative and administrative processes to the detailed history behind those provisions seemed most conceptually elegant to the drafter of the opinion.

Return to the Riverside Bayview Homes materials home page.

Return to the Re-Authorizing the Clean Water Act home page.

Return to the Environmental Drafting and Negotiating course's home page.

For corrections, comments, and questions, please e-mail John Setear.

This page was last updated on 03/10/99.