Florida Department of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc



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Florida Department of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc.

458 U.S. 670 (1982), U.S. Supreme Court

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE v. TREASURE SALVORS, INC., ET AL.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT


No. 80-1348.
Argued January 20, 1982

Decided July 1, 1982


After respondents had located the wreck of a 17th-century Spanish galleon off the Florida coast, Florida immediately claimed ownership of the galleon pursuant to a Florida statute. Contracts were then entered into between the Florida Division of Archives, as owner of the galleon and its cargo, and respondents, whereby respondents agreed to conduct underwater salvage operations in exchange for the Division's agreement to transfer ownership of 75% of the appraised value of all material recovered from the galleon to respondents. The contracts did not purport to transfer ownership of any property to the Division. Ultimately, many valuable artifacts of the galleon were discovered. In the meantime, in proceedings unrelated to the salvage operations, it was held in United States v. Florida, 420 U.S. 531 , that, as against Florida, the United States was entitled to the lands, minerals, and other natural resources in the area in which the remains of the galleon had come to rest. Respondents thereafter filed an admiralty in rem action in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida, naming the galleon as defendant but not the State of Florida and seeking a declaration of title to the galleon. Throughout the ensuing proceedings, in which the United States intervened and in which both the District Court and the Court of Appeals on appeal rejected the United States' claim to ownership of the galleon, some of the valuable artifacts remained in the custody of officials of the Florida Division of Archives in Tallahassee, which is located beyond the District Court's territorial jurisdiction. After the Court of Appeals' decision, respondents filed a motion in the District Court for an order commanding the United States Marshal to arrest and take custody of those artifacts and bring them within the court's jurisdiction. The District Court granted the motion and issued a warrant of arrest. Although the warrant was addressed to the state officials, the State itself filed a motion to quash the warrant, but the court denied this motion, ruling that the extraterritorial seizure was proper under Supplemental Admiralty Rule C(5), and issued an order to show cause why the State should not deliver the artifacts into the Marshal's custody. The State then argued that the Eleventh Amendment barred exercise of the District Court's jurisdiction, but the District Court rejected this [458 U.S. 670, 671] argument, holding that the State had waived the Eleventh Amendment as to any claim to the property, and that, apart from any such claim, the Eleventh Amendment did not bar the seizure of the artifacts and subsequent transfer to the Marshal's custody. On the merits, the court also rejected the State's claim to the property based on the salvage contracts with respondents. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held:
The judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part.
621 F.2d 1340, affirmed in part and reversed in part.
JUSTICE STEVENS, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE MARSHALL, and JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concluded that:

1. The Eleventh Amendment did not bar the process issued by the District Court to secure possession of the artifacts held by the state officials. Pp. 683-699.


(a) The Eleventh Amendment, while barring an action directly against the state itself or any agency thereof, does not bar an action against a state official that is based on the theory that the official acted beyond the scope of his statutory authority or, if within that authority, that such authority is unconstitutional. The Eleventh Amendment, however, limits the relief that may be recovered in the latter kind of action; the judgment may not compel the State to use its funds to compensate the plaintiff for his injury. Pp. 683-690.
(b) Here, the process at issue is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment as a direct action against the State, because it was directed only at state officials. Neither the fact that the State elected to defend on behalf of the officials, nor the fact that the District Court purported to adjudicate the State's rights, deprives that court of jurisdiction that had been properly invoked over other parties. Pp. 691-692.

(c) The state officials named in the warrant of arrest do not have a colorable claim to possession of the artifacts, and thus may not invoke the Eleventh Amendment to block execution of the warrant. The salvage contracts, whether valid or not, provide no authority for the officials' refusal to surrender possession of the artifacts, and no statutory provision that even arguably would authorize the officials to retain the artifacts has been advanced. Pp. 692-697.

(d) The relief sought by respondents is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment but is consistent with the principles of Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 . The warrant of arrest sought possession of specific property. It did not seek any attachment of state funds and would impose no burden on the state treasury. And respondents are not asserting a claim for damages against either the State or its officers. Pp. 697-699.
2. The proper resolution of the Eleventh Amendment issue does not require - or permit - a determination of the State's ownership of the [458 U.S. 670, 672] artifacts, and hence the Court of Appeals improperly adjudicated the State's right to the artifacts. Pp. 699-700.
JUSTICE BRENNAN while agreeing with the opinion that the State of Florida has not established even a colorable claim to the artifacts, concluded that the Eleventh Amendment is inapplicable in this case because both respondents are Florida corporations and thus the suit was not "commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State," as the Eleventh Amendment provides. Pp. 700-702.
JUSTICE WHITE, joined by JUSTICE POWELL, JUSTICE REHNQUIST, and JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concurred in the Court's judgment insofar as it reverses the Court of Appeals' determination of the State's ownership of the artifacts. P. 703, n.

STEVENS, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which BURGER, C. J., and MARSHALL and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 700. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part, in which POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 702.

Susan Gamble Smathers, Assistant Attorney General of Florida, argued the cause pro hac vice for petitioner. With her on the briefs were Jim Smith, Attorney General, and Sidney H. McKenzie III.

David Paul Horan argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents. *

[ Footnote * ] A brief for the State of Alabama et al. as amici curiae urging reversal was filed by Rufus L. Edmisten, Attorney General of North Carolina, W. A. Raney, Jr., Special Deputy Attorney General, and Daniel C. Oakley, Assistant Attorney General; Charles A. Graddick, Attorney General of Alabama; Wilson L. Condon, Attorney General of Alaska; Robert C. Hight, Jack E. Rump; Tany S. Hong, Attorney General of Hawaii; Tyrone C. Fahner, Attorney General of Illinois; William J. Guste, Jr., Attorney General of Louisiana; Stephen H. Sachs, Attorney General of Maryland; Francis X. Bellotti, Attorney General of Massachusetts; William A. Allain, Attorney General of Mississippi; Daniel R. McLeod, Attorney General of South Carolina; Mark White, Attorney General of Texas; Donald M. Bouton, Acting Attorney General of the Virgin Islands; Aviata F. Faalevao, Attorney General of American Samoa; and Jack Avery, Attorney General of the Government of Guam. [458 U.S. 670, 673]


JUSTICE STEVENS announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE MARSHALL, and JUSTICE BLACKMUN joined.
In this admiralty in rem action, a federal court attempted to arrest property held by two state officials and bring it within the jurisdiction of the court. The property - artifacts of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a 17th-century Spanish galleon - was discovered by respondents on the floor of the ocean in international waters. The question presented is whether the Eleventh Amendment immunized the property from the federal court's process.

I

Battered by a tropical hurricane, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon carrying a cargo of New World treasure to King Philip IV of Spain, sank in 1622, 40 nautical miles west of what is today Key West, Fla. After years of searching the ocean floor and studying Spanish archives in Seville, respondent Treasure Salvors 1 located the wreck site in the spring of 1971 near shoals known as the "Quicksands," nine and one-half nautical miles west of the Marquesas Keys. 2

The State of Florida immediately claimed that the Atocha belonged to the State. The State claimed ownership pursuant to Fla. Stat. 267.061(1)(b) (1974), which then provided: 3

"It is further declared to be the public policy of the state that all treasure trove, artifacts and such objects having intrinsic or historical and archeological value which have been abandoned on state-owned lands or [458 U.S. 670, 674] state-owned sovereignty submerged lands shall belong to the state with the title thereto vested in the division of archives, history, and records management of the department of state for the purpose of administration and protection." (Emphasis added.)

Officials of the Florida Division of Archives threatened to arrest Mel Fisher, president of Treasure Salvors, and to confiscate the boats and equipment of Treasure Salvors if it commenced salvage operations on the Atocha without a salvage contract from the State. Under this threat of arrest, Treasure Salvors executed a one-year contract with the State that permitted it to conduct underwater salvage operations on the vessel. 4 Similar contracts were executed during each of the three succeeding years.

Each of the contracts was expressly predicated on the assumption that the Atocha was the property of the State of Florida because it had been found on submerged lands within the boundaries of the State. The contracts permitted Treasure Salvors "to conduct underwater salvage from and upon certain submerged sovereignty lands of and belonging to the State of Florida." App. 20. After describing in metes and bounds an area claimed to be "lying and being in Monroe County, Florida," the contract provided that the shipwreck site "is to be worked for the purpose of salvaging abandoned vessels or the remains thereof including, but not limited to, relics, treasure trove and other materials related thereto and located thereupon and therein, which abandoned material is the property of the State of Florida." Id., at 22 (emphasis added). The contract further provided: [458 U.S. 670, 675]

"In payment for the Salvager's satisfactory performance and compliance with this Agreement, the Division will award to the Salvager seventy-five percent (75%) of the total appraised value of all material recovered hereunder, which payment shall be made at the time division of such material is made by the parties hereto. Said payment may be made in either recovered material or fair market value, or in a combination of both, at the option of the Division's director." Id., at 32-33.

The bargain, in brief, was between the Division of Archives, as the owner of the Atocha and its cargo, and Treasure Salvors, as a contractor that agreed to perform services for the Division. Treasure Salvors agreed to pay the Division $1,200 each year, to post a performance bond, and to perform its work in a specified manner, all in exchange for the Division's agreement to transfer ownership of 75% of the proceeds of the operation - or its equivalent - to Treasure Salvors. The contracts did not purport to transfer ownership of any property to the Division of Archives; the State's claim to the property was predicated entirely on a provision of state law.

In its attempt to salvage the lost treasure of the Atocha, Treasure Salvors was immensely successful. The salvager held some of the artifacts at its headquarters in Key West, while state officials held the remainder at the Division of Archives in Tallahassee. All of the property was deemed to belong to the State, however, subject to a subsequent distribution in which Treasure Salvors would receive its 75% contractual share.

In proceedings unrelated to the salvage operation, the United States and the State of Florida were engaged in litigation to determine the seaward boundary of submerged lands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico in which the State had rights to natural resources. In February 1974, a Special Master filed a Report that defined Florida's [458 U.S. 670, 676] boundary landward of the site of the wreck of the Atocha. The State's objections to the Report were overruled. United States v. Florida, 420 U.S. 531 (1975). 5 A final decree was entered providing that, as against the State of Florida, the United States was entitled to the lands, minerals, and other natural resources in the area in which the remains of the Atocha had come to rest. United States v. Florida, 425 U.S. 791 (1976). 6

After this Court overruled Florida's exceptions to the Special Master's Report, Treasure Salvors filed a complaint in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida demanding that "Plaintiffs be put into possession of the ATOCHA and other property and that all other persons, firms, and corporations or government agencies be enjoined from interfering with Plaintiffs title, possession, and property," and that "Plaintiffs title be confirmed against all claimants and all the world." App. 9. The complaint invoked the court's admiralty and maritime jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h) and, as an admiralty action in rem, named the Atocha as defendant. Items recovered from the Atocha in Treasure Salvors' possession were duly served with process and brought into the custody of the court. Most of the remainder of the wreck and its valuable cargo lay buried under sand in international waters; state officials held other artifacts in Tallahassee. No attempt was made at this time to serve the artifacts in Tallahassee.
The United States intervened in the action as a party-defendant and filed a counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that the United States was the proper owner of the [458 U.S. 670, 677] Atocha. 7 The District Court rejected the Government's claim of ownership and held that "possession and title are rightfully conferred upon the finder of the res derelictae." Treasure Salvors, Inc. v. Abandoned Sailing Vessel, 408 F. Supp. 907, 911 (1976). The court entered judgment in favor of Treasure Salvors "against the United States of America and all other claimants." Record 270. 8

The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the District Court as against the United States, but modified its decree. Treasure Salvors, Inc. v. Unidentified Wrecked and Abandoned Sailing Vessel, 569 F.2d 330 (CA5 1978). The United States had argued that the District Court lacked in rem jurisdiction to determine rights of the parties to that portion of the Atocha lying beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the court. The Court of Appeals agreed that the District Court lacked in rem jurisdiction over those portions of the res located outside the district; the court noted that for a court to exercise admiralty in rem jurisdiction the res itself must be brought within the district and seized by the court. Id., at 333. The appellate court held, however, that by intervening in the action and stipulating to the court's admiralty jurisdiction the Government had "waived the usual requirement that the res be present within the territorial jurisdiction of the court and consented to the court's jurisdiction to determine [458 U.S. 670, 678] its interest in the extraterritorial portion of the vessel." Id., at 335. The court concluded that jurisdiction thus existed to determine claims of the United States to those portions of the Atocha lying beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the court, but not claims of other parties who had not appeared and submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. 9 On the merits, the Court of Appeals rejected the statutory and common-law claims advanced by the United States.

Throughout these proceedings, valuable artifacts of the Atocha remained in the custody of officials of the Florida Division of Archives in Tallahassee. Since Tallahassee is located in the Northern District of Florida, these artifacts also were located beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the District Court. Immediately following the decision of the Court of Appeals, Treasure Salvors filed a motion in the District Court for an order commanding the United States Marshal to arrest and take custody of these artifacts and bring them within the jurisdiction of the court. Record 318. That motion forms the basis of the present controversy.
The District Court issued a warrant to arrest. 10 Although [458 U.S. 670, 679] the warrant was addressed to two officers of the Division of Archives, the State itself filed a motion to quash the warrant, contending that the State of Florida was not a party in the case and had not waived the requirement that the court could exercise in rem jurisdiction only over that portion of the res within the territorial boundaries of the court. App. 43. 11 The State also sought and obtained an emergency stay from the Court of Appeals. Record 368. The District Court denied the motion to quash, ruling that the extraterritorial seizure was proper under Supplemental Admiralty Rule C(5). [458 U.S. 670, 680] App. 51. 12 Since the Court of Appeals had stayed execution of the warrant, the District Court issued an order to show cause why the State should not deliver the artifacts into the custody of the Marshal. 13

In response to the order to show cause, the State raised several substantive issues in the District Court. Record 425. Contending that a supplemental complaint filed by Treasure Salvors, see n. 11, supra, demonstrated that the State of Florida was a defendant in the action, the State argued that the Eleventh Amendment barred an exercise of the court's jurisdiction. The State also repeated its arguments that the court lacked in rem jurisdiction in admiralty because the res was not present within the district and that the decision of this Court in United States v. Florida did not affect the State's "contractual" right to a share of the artifacts. Record 429-439.

The District Court rejected these arguments in a comprehensive memorandum. Treasure Salvors, Inc. v. Unidentified Wrecked and Abandoned Sailing Vessel, 459 F. Supp. 507 (1978). The court first held that, just as all claims of the [458 U.S. 670, 681] United States had been resolved in the earlier proceeding, all claims of the State were barred because the State of Florida had acted in privity with the United States in that proceeding. Id., at 512; see n. 7, supra. Alternatively, the court held that the extraterritorial arrest of the salvaged articles was proper under Supplemental Admiralty Rule C(5) and that the court thus had obtained jurisdiction in rem to resolve ownership of the res. 459 F. Supp., at 518. On the merits, the court rejected on multiple grounds the State's contractual claim to the property. Id., at 521.
At the conclusion of its memorandum opinion, the court rejected the State's Eleventh Amendment defense. Id., at 526. The court first held that the State necessarily had waived the Amendment as to any claim to the property that it asserted in federal court. Ibid. The court then held that, apart from any claim advanced by the State, the Eleventh Amendment did not bar the seizure of the artifacts and subsequent transfer to the custody of the Marshal. 14 [458 U.S. 670, 682]

The Court of Appeals affirmed. 621 F.2d 1340 (CA5 1980). As had the District Court, see n. 14, supra, the court concluded that the Eleventh Amendment did not prevent the court from resolving the controverted claims to ownership of the res, since resolution of that dispute was essential to a determination of whether the Eleventh Amendment in fact barred an exercise of jurisdiction by the federal court. 621 F.2d, at 1345. 15 The court then held that the extraterritorial process issued pursuant to Supplemental Admiralty Rule C(5) was proper, id., at 1346, and that the State did not have a valid claim to the property. Id., at 1349. 16

The Florida Department of State filed a petition for writ of certiorari, presenting only one question: "Whether the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution bars an in rem admiralty action seeking to recover property owned by a state." Pet. for Cert. I. We granted the petition. 451 U.S. 982 . We hold that the federal court had jurisdiction to secure possession of the property from the named state officials, since they had no colorable basis on which to retain possession of the artifacts. The court did not have power, however, to adjudicate the State's interest in the property without the State's consent. [458 U.S. 670, 683]

II

Stripped of its procedural complexities and factual glamor, this case presents a narrow legal question. The District Court attempted to seize artifacts held by state officials and to bring the property within its admiralty in rem jurisdiction. Although the seizure in this case was extraterritorial, and thus involved an application of Supplemental Admiralty Rule C(5), the question presented for our decision would not be any different if the State merely resisted an attachment of property located within the district.


In response to the warrant of arrest, the State contended that it was immune from the federal process under the Eleventh Amendment. 17 It argued that the contracts executed with Treasure Salvors "alone determined the rights and obligations of the contracting parties . . . ." App. 44. The difficult question presented in this case is whether a federal court exercising admiralty in rem jurisdiction may seize property held by state officials under a claim that the property belongs to the State. 18 [458 U.S. 670, 684]

A suit generally may not be maintained directly against the State itself, or against an agency or department of the State, unless the State has waived its sovereign immunity. Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 . If the State is named directly in the complaint and has not consented to the suit, it must be dismissed from the action. Id., at 782. 19 Of course, the fact that the State should have been dismissed from an action that has proceeded to judgment does not mean that the judgment may not stand against other parties who are not immune from suit. 20
The Eleventh Amendment does not bar all claims against officers of the State, even when directed to actions taken in their official capacity and defended by the most senior legal officers in the executive branch of the state government. In Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 , the Court held that an action brought against a state official to enjoin the enforcement of an unconstitutional state statute is not a suit against a State barred by the Eleventh Amendment. In response to the argument that the official in such a case could act only as an officer of the State and that the suit therefore could be characterized only as an action against the State itself, the Court explained:

"The act to be enforced is alleged to be unconstitutional, and if it be so, the use of the name of the State to enforce [458 U.S. 670, 685] an unconstitutional act to the injury of complainants is a proceeding without the authority of and one which does not affect the State in its sovereign or governmental capacity. It is simply an illegal act upon the part of a state official in attempting by the use of the name of the State to enforce a legislative enactment which is void because unconstitutional. If the act which the state Attorney General seeks to enforce is a violation of the Federal Constitution, the officer in proceeding under such enactment comes into conflict with the superior authority of that Constitution, and he is in that case stripped of his official or representative character and is subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct. The State has no power to impart to him any immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States." Id., at 159-160.




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