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Superior Oil Co. v. Andrus

decided: July 27, 1981.

THE SUPERIOR OIL COMPANY AND PENNZOIL OIL & GAS, INC., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS
v.
CECIL D. ANDRUS, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, FRANK GREGG, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT AND H. WILLIAM MENARD, DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



ON APPEAL FROM A JUDGMENT OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE

Before Adams, and Garth, Circuit Judges, and Fisher,*fn* District Judge.

Author: Garth

Opinion OF THE COURT

This appeal requires us to determine whether, under the venue provisions of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act ("OCSLA"), 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1), the government "may be found" as a defendant, and therefore sued, in the District of Delaware.

This action was brought by the plaintiff oil companies against various government officials under OCSLA. The plaintiffs filed their complaint and alleged venue in the judicial district of Delaware. The district court, in an unreported opinion and order, granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the action for improper venue, holding that even though the venue provisions of the Act were exclusive, the government defendants could not be sued in Delaware because, under the terms of the venue statute, the "may be found" provisions of the statute did not apply to the government. Hence the government defendants could not be "found" in that judicial district. We reverse.

I.

Plaintiffs, Superior Oil Company and Pennzoil Oil & Gas, Inc. (hereinafter "Superior"), filed their complaint against Cecil D. Andrus, Secretary of the Interior, and two other government officials.*fn1 The complaint, brought under OCSLA, challenged the refusal of the Secretary to award Superior a lease on Tract 135 in the Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale 42.*fn2 In the complaint Superior alleged that this rejection was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. Superior sought a declaratory judgment and a court order requiring the Secretary to issue the lease. The complaint alleged venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(4), the general venue statute.*fn3

The government defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for improper venue, alleging that the litigation was governed exclusively by the special venue provision of the Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1), and that under that statute, the government defendants were "not found" in Delaware. Section 1349(b)(1) provides for venue in the judicial district where any defendant resides or may be found, or in the judicial district of the State nearest the place where the cause of action arose.

Superior argued that venue was proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(4), the general venue statute. In addition, contrary to the government's argument, Superior contended that the government defendants "may be found" in the District of Delaware as that term appears in 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1). Thus, both parties agree on the applicability of the OCSLA venue statute, § 1349(b) (1), but disagree on the interpretation to be given to its terms.

The district court, as we have previously noted, held that 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b) (1) was exclusive but that under its interpretation of § 1349(b)(1), venue would not lie in Delaware with respect to the government defendants.

As we have indicated, this appeal presents but one issue for resolution: Are government defendants subject to the "may be found" venue provision of § 1349(b)(1) so that an action against such defendants may be brought in any judicial district (here Delaware) where they are found?

II.

The government contends that the venue provisions of OCSLA, 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1), are exclusive. Superior, while disputing exclusivity nevertheless maintains that venue is proper in Delaware under either 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1) or 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(4). See Brief for Superior at 8. Thus, neither party disagrees that, in an action such as the present one, § 1349(b)(1) is the venue statute to which we should look. In this posture, the need to determine whether § 1349(b)(1) is exclusive is substantially diminished.

If called upon to decide the exclusivity issue, however, we would be persuaded to agree with the district court*fn4 that § 1349(b)(1) is exclusive. We regard its exclusivity as stemming not only from the special substantive content of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, but also from the breadth of the OCSLA venue provisions which, in large part, incorporate the relevant options of the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e).

OCSLA defines a body of law uniquely applicable to the seabed, the subsoil, and fixed structures such as artificial island drilling rigs, all of which pertain to the outer continental shelf lands. This body of law clearly is distinct from the substantive law generally applicable within continental limits. See Rodrigue v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 395 U.S. 352, 355, 89 S. Ct. 1835, 1837, 23 L. Ed. 2d 360 (1969). The fact that OCSLA is distinctive in terms of its subject matter and the geographical areas to which it pertains, is apparent from the Act itself and the discussion in Rodrigue, supra. Rodrigue touches upon various comparisons of OCSLA with other enactments involving more traditional substantive areas. The Supreme Court, in Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Corp., 353 U.S. 222, 228, 77 S. Ct. 787, 791, 1 L. Ed. 2d 786 (1957), also dealt with a special substantive area for which Congress had provided particular venue options. The Court there held that the venue statute applicable to patent infringement actions was special because it was "complete, independent and alone controlling in its sphere" because of the nature of such actions.

In the context of the matters to which OCSLA pertains, we conclude that § 1349(b)(1) is also "complete, independent and alone controlling" in the sphere of the outer continental shelf lands. Thus, even if we were to reach Superior's argument (and we do not), that the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e), supplements the special venue statute,*fn5 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1), we would still be persuaded by the principles stated in Fourco :

However inclusive may be the general language of a statute, it "will not be held to apply to a matter specifically dealt with in another part of the same enactment.... Specific terms prevail over the general in the same or another statute which otherwise might be controlling.' Ginsberg & Sons v. Popkin, 285 U.S. 204, 208 (52 S. Ct. 322, 323, 76 L. Ed. 704); MacEvoy Co. v. United States, 322 U.S. 102, 107 (64 S. Ct. 890, 893, 88 L. Ed. 1163).

Id. at 228-29, 77 S. Ct. at 791-792.

Moreover, a comparison of 43 U.S.C. § 1349(b)(1) with 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e) reveals that Congress, in enacting the venue provisions of OCSLA, incorporated into § 1349(b)(1) the ...


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