Charles E. Hancock Collection of Nevada water Court Cases

Identifier: 91-54

Scope and Contents

This collection is divided into six series representing six court actions, all of which stemmed from one suit.

The United States of America in its own right and in its fiduciary capacity on behalf of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT or Tribe) filed a suit against the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID) et al. The "et al" included the Cities of Sparks and Reno, County of Washoe, State of Nevada, Sierra Pacific Power Company and 17,000 others. This suit, filed in 1973 as case # Civil R-2987-JBA before the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, sought to quiet title to the water rights of all users to the Truckee River (also referred to as River). Those water rights had been decreed in 1944 in the case of United States vs Orr Water Ditch Company (also referred to as Orr Ditch).

In the 1973 court case, the plaintiff, later joined by the PLPT, claimed for itself minor reserved water rights for the Toiyabe National Forest and the Stillwater Wildlife Refuge. On behalf of the Tribe, the U.S. claimed that the creation of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation in 1859 by implication reserved for the benefit of the Indians settled on that reservation, sufficient water from the Truckee River for the maintenance and preservation of the fishery in Pyramid Lake. Also reserved were sufficient flows in the Truckee River for the natural spawning of the fish long relied upon by the Indians as a staple of their diet.

In a judgement entered on December 12, 1977, the District Court dismissed with prejudice the complaint of the U.S., to the extent that a water right for the PLPT for fishery purposes was claimed. The court also dismissed, with prejudice, the complaint in intervention filed by the tribe. The primary basis for these dismissals was the Court's conclusion that the decree of Orr Ditch conclusively established and limited the rights of the U.S. and the Tribe and that the doctrine of res judicata precluded further litigation of this matter.

The case was subsequently appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, cases 77-8418 (Series 2) and cases 78-115 and 78-1493, 1978-1982. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the holdings of the lower court, holding that res judicata barred the dispute between all parties except the Newlands Reclamation Project and the Tribe. In its decision of 1981 (amended 1982), the court ruled that the parties were not sufficiently adverse to one another in the Orr Ditch litigation to warrant the use of res judicata in this action, as the U.S. government had represented both the plaintiff and the defendant in Orr Ditch. The case was immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case on October 12, 1982 (cases 81-2245, 81-2276, and 82-38 - see Series 5). In its decision of 1983, the Supreme Court affirmed that part of the Ninth Circuit's holding barring the litigation between the Orr Ditch defendants, their successors in interest, and subsequent appropriators of the River; and the U.S. and the Tribe. The Court reversed the Circuit Court's holding that insufficient adversity existed between the Newlands Reclamation Project (represented by Orr Water Ditch Company) and the Tribe. In a unanimous decision the Court held that the Orr Ditch litigation barred the action between these parties as well.

The Supreme Court subsequently remanded the case to the Court of Appeals, which in turn remanded it back to the District Court, where it was again assigned the case number of Civil R-2987-JBA (see Series 1). Before that court could act upon the remand order, the Tribe submitted a motion to amend its original complaint. The amended complaint consisted of four claims:

- The Tribe asserted an implied reserved water right to the unappropriated waters of the River for fishery purposes.

- The Tribe sought to enjoin the State Engineer from infringing on the Tribe's right to the unappropriated waters.

- The Tribe contended that the Truckee Canal was located on the Tribe's reservation and constituted continuing trespass.

- The Tribe alleged that, contrary to Nevada law, several dams and obstructions on the Truckee were without fishways or fishladders and that a number of diversion ditches were without fishscreens.

The District Court denied leave to amend the complaint based on undue delay in presenting these new claims, prejudice to the opposing party because of the piecemeal nature of the litigation, and unrelatedness of the new claims to the original water right claims (Sept. 18, 1985).

Again, the Tribe appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court (case 86-1640), raising the issues of whether the District Court erred by denying the Tribe's motion for leave to amend its complaint, and whether the District Court erred by refusing to specify that its dismissal was without prejudice to the Tribe's claim to the unappropriated waters of the River.

This collection consists of court documents for these various court cases, and include motions, interrogatories, answers and objections, notices, memorandum, lists of witnesses and experts, and opinions of the litigants and the courts. There is also a small amount of correspondence which consists of cover letters accompanying documents filed in court, and letters announcing changes of addresses or withdrawals of attorneys.


  • 1974-1986


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Charles E. Hancock was a Nevadan as interested in the Nevada water court cases which originated in the U.S. District Court, District of Nevada, as the United States of America (U.S.), plaintiff, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (PLPT) of Indians, plaintiff-intervenor, vs. Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID), et al, defendants (civil no. R-2987-JBA), 1973.


5.25 Linear Feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of court documents for the case which involved water rights to the Truckee River in Nevada and a reconsideration of the Orr Water Ditch decree, and for the appeal cases which arose from that litigation. The collection Includes motions, interrogatories, answers and objections, notices, memorandum, lists of witnesses and experts, opinions of the litigants and the courts. Created by Charles E. Hancock between 1974-1986.


Arranged into the following series: 1) In the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. Civil No. R-2987-JBA; 2) In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Court of Appeals No. 77-8418; 3) In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Nos. 78-1115 and 78-1493; 4) United States District Court, District of Nevada. In Equity No. A-3; 5) Supreme Court of the United States, October Term, 1982. Nos. 81-2245, 81-2276, and 82-38; 6) In the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. No. 86-1640

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Charles E. Hancock in October, 1991 via M. Richard Ganzel of the Political Science Department, University of Nevada, Reno.

Guide to the Charles E. Hancock Collection of Nevada Water Court Cases
Susan Searcy
January 1992
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
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