of April 27, 1912, ch. 96, 37 Stat. 93 (the 1912 Act); and the Act of October 31, 1945, ch. 443, 59 Stat. 552 (the 1945 Act) [set out as a note under D.C.Code Ann. § 1-101 (1973)].
At the heart of the matter is the long-standing and troublesome question of where lies the boundary between the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia (Virginia), and all of the vexatious problems incident thereto. The greater part of the land in dispute in this action concededly is located within the territorial limits of Virginia; the remainder is said to be situated within the territorial limits of the District of Columbia.
Before the Court at this time are motions (1) to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction; (2) to quash service of process; (3) to transfer the cause to the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); and (4) to refer the cause to a master.
For reasons set out hereinafter, the Court holds that it lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine a quiet title action to any land situated within the territorial limits of Virginia.
A brief history of the dispute over the boundary between Virginia and the District of Columbia is set out in Robinson Terminal,5 and need not be repeated at this juncture. What is to be gleaned from that history, and what is important for our purposes, is that, the present boundary is the mean high water mark on the Virginia shore of the Potomac River, except within the environs of the City of Alexandria, where the boundary is the established pier-head line.
Most of the lands claimed by the Government lie shoreward, or westward, of the pier-head line between Gibbon Street on the south to Second Street on the north where the pier-head line terminates. They make up the so-called "Alexandria Waterfront." Clearly these parcels lie within the territorial limits of Virginia.
It would also appear that the District of Columbia Government lays no claim to the area between Second and Third Streets and that it, accordingly, lies within the territorial limits of Virginia.
As to the remainder, i.e., the parcels lying between Third Street and Slater's Lane, also claimed by the Federal Government, there may be a question as to whether those parcels lie within the territorial limits of the District of Columbia or Virginia. On the present state of the record, the Court is unable to make a firm finding.
The fact that most, if not all, of the property as to which title is claimed is located in Virginia is crucial to an understanding of defendants' motions to dismiss. The Government asserts that the 1912 and 1945 Acts vested this Court with exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the question of title as to all lands claimed regardless of where situated, while the defendants argue the 1912 and 1945 Acts did not confer such exclusive jurisdiction and that, lacking such a statutory grant of jurisdiction, this Court cannot, under general legal principles, exercise in rem jurisdiction over land situated beyond its territorial boundary.
The Court agrees with the defendants.
We turn to each of the statutes involved.
A. The 1912 Act
The operative provision of the 1912 Act, § 1, is set out in full in the margin.
By its terms, the Act established a judicial framework for the resolution of title disputes between the United States and private parties over the ownership of any lands " in the District of Columbia in, under, and adjacent to the Potomac River."
Although the legislative history of the 1912 Act indicates that the Act was designed primarily to meet the problems of the Anacostia River reclamation,
the Act explicitly establishes this Court as the forum for title disputes concerning land situated in the District of Columbia -- and only in the District of Columbia. The Government recognizes the applicability of the 1912 Act to "land in the District of Columbia" only, but argues that the 1945 Act extended this Court's jurisdiction to the lands now in controversy.
B. The 1945 Act
We have previously alluded to § 101 of the 1945 Act.
It is § 103 of the Act, however, to which we must look for a resolution of this dispute.
§§ 103 provides:
Nothing in this Act shall be construed as relinquishing any right, title, or interest of the United States to the lands lying between the mean high-water mark as it existed January 24, 1791, and the boundary line described in section 101; or to limit the right of the United States to establish its title to any of said lands as provided by (the 1912 Act); or the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States for the District of Columbia to hear and determine suits to establish the title of the United States in all lands in the bed, marshes, and lowlands of the Potomac River, and other lands as described by said Act below the mean high-water mark of January 24, 1971 ; . . ..