Arkansas v. Texas, 346 U.S. 368 (1953)

Author: Justice Jackson

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Arkansas v. Texas, 346 U.S. 368 (1953)


We would deny this motion outright, because we think no case is presented appropriate for original action here.

In 1923, William Buchanan, a citizen and resident of Texas, executed within that State a conveyance of personal property to trustees. They, in Texas, duly accepted the trust. The trust instrument recited the purpose to create and endow an incorporated charitable enterprise known as "The William Buchanan Foundation" in the City of Texarkana, Texas. Such a corporation was created by the Texas for the particular purpose of carrying out the provisions of the trust deed made by Buchanan.

It is needless to recite these purposes beyond saying that they are broadly stated, and some clauses leave the broadest discretion to the Foundation. Another clause contemplates that the trust

shall be administered in Bowie County, Texas, but for the benefit not only of the citizens or residents of said county, but also for the benefit of the citizens or residents of adjoining counties, as well as for the benefit of such other persons as, in the judgment of the Trustees, should receive the benefits of the activities or institutions established hereunder.

That this instrument is open in good faith to different interpretations seems apparent.

The trustees have made an agreement to expend a large sum for a charity hospital at the University of Arkansas, a state institution. The validity of that contract is questioned in the courts of Texas by the Attorney General thereof, whose duties include some supervision of the administration of charitable trusts.

If under these circumstances, the courts of Texas cannot finally decide the validity and interpretation of its own charter and trust instrument and its corporation’s power to contract, then there is little left of the original conception of state power. This Court seems to agree that some vestige, at least, of such power remains.

If a controversy between two states concerns the construction of a compact, Dyer v. Sims, 341 U.S. 22, or presents "a question of `federal common law’ upon which neither the statutes nor the decisions of either State can be conclusive," Hinderlider v. La Plata River Co., 304 U.S. 92,110, this Court must, of course, determine their rights inter sese.

Local questions may be intertwined with these ultimate federal rights, and, if there are sufficient grounds for delaying final action, we may wait in order to "have the advantage of the views of the state court." See of Kentucky v. Indiana, 281 U.S. 163, 177.

But where, as here, we are concerned with a question of Texas law in which the courts of that State necessarily "have the final say," the only basis for our holding the suit is to ride herd on the Texas court on the assumption that it may deny Arkansas some federal right. We ought not to entertain such a possibility in the administration of justice of one state against a sister State. Of course, Arkansas will get justice in Texas, just as Texas would get justice in Arkansas.

If Texas courts decide that the contract is valid, Arkansas has no grievance. If Texas decides the other way, what more does this Court plan to do? What is the meaning of holding this case on the docket? We think the Texas courts should be left to decide their state law questions without the threat implicit in keeping this case alive. Exertion of a state’s power to determine whether a contract of its corporation is ultra vires cannot be made a tortious interference with the rights of any party to the contract. Since we think the contention is frivolous, we would deny the motion, and have done with the business.


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Chicago: Jackson, "Jackson, J., Dissenting," Arkansas v. Texas, 346 U.S. 368 (1953) in 346 U.S. 368 346 U.S. 372–346 U.S. 373. Original Sources, accessed August 9, 2022,

MLA: Jackson. "Jackson, J., Dissenting." Arkansas v. Texas, 346 U.S. 368 (1953), in 346 U.S. 368, pp. 346 U.S. 372–346 U.S. 373. Original Sources. 9 Aug. 2022.

Harvard: Jackson, 'Jackson, J., Dissenting' in Arkansas v. Texas, 346 U.S. 368 (1953). cited in 1953, 346 U.S. 368, pp.346 U.S. 372–346 U.S. 373. Original Sources, retrieved 9 August 2022, from