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UNITED STATES v. HERBERT BRYANT

December 9, 1974

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
HERBERT BRYANT, INC., et al., Defendants


Corcoran, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CORCORAN

CORCORAN, District Judge.

 The United States has filed this suit *fn1" to quiet title to all fast and submerged lands "in Virginia or the District of Columbia" *fn2" that lie along the waterfront of the City of Alexandria, roughly from Gibbon Street on the south to Slater's Lane on the north, and from the Potomac River on the east to "the January 24, 1791, high water mark of the Potomac River" *fn3" on the west.

 There are some 35 defendants who are the record owners, or interest holders, of such lands. *fn4"

 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.

 I

 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. *fn6"

 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. *fn7"

 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. *fn8"

 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 ...


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