“The Vanishing Water Case,” as it was subtitled by Georgia-born Justice Clarence Thomas, was resolved by the US Supreme Court on April Fools’ Day 2021.

Apalachicola Bay along the Florida Panhandle in the Gulf of Mexico comes from the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers in Georgia, which form the Apalachicola River on the Florida Line. Florida’s lawsuit, filed in 2013, alleged Georgia’s use of water for irrigation, agriculture and development in Atlanta was unreasonable. She sought an equitable apportionment to control Georgia’s use of this water to protect Florida’s natural resources, ecology and economy, including the oyster fishery. Georgia opposed a cap on the use of these bodies of water as it adversely affects agriculture and the millions of water users in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion, drafted by Judge Amy Coney Barrett, found that Florida had failed to prove its case: “Given the overall record, Florida has not shown that it is“ very likely ”that Georgia’s alleged Overconsumption more than played a trivial role in the collapse of the Florida oyster fishery. ”

The case is interesting and important to its intergovernmental principles and decisions on water rights, but also from an appeal point of view. The Federal Justice Act of 1789 provided that the Supreme Court had exclusive jurisdiction over actions between two or more states. Long before Florida initiated this water war, the state of Georgia influenced the scope of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the 1793 Chisholm v Georgia ruling in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Supreme Court had original jurisdiction as a state of one was sued as a citizen of another state. This controversial decision resulted in the adoption of the 11th Amendment to the Constitution, which banned the federal court from having jurisdiction over claims against states by non-state citizens before the federal courts.

The Supreme Court’s use of special masters and their rulings is also an interesting aspect of this important Florida v Georgia case. After two years of discovery, dozens of testimony and testimony, and a five-week trial in 2017, the First Special Master recommended that Florida’s request for relief be rejected because the US Army Corps of Engineers was not a party and therefore Florida had not been proven “by clear and convincing evidence” that the court could grant the requested ease of fair sharing to limit water use in Georgia. The Special Master’s second decision, made in 2019, also recommended denying Florida’s requested relief and, very similar to the final Supreme Court opinion, concluded that “the evidence did not show that Florida was harmed by Georgia; The evidence has shown that Georgia’s water use is reasonable … ”Regarding a fair division, the Special Master’s 2019 recommendation also noted that“ the evidence has not shown that the benefits of the division would significantly outweigh the potential harm. “

Of course, these decisions on issues of fair use, equitable apportionment, immediate causation, etc., are much more typical of judges and juries in court weighing the preponderance of evidence to determine whether a plaintiff has borne his burden of proof than an opinion of the colonel Court of Justice. While the history of the Supreme Court reflects few cases of original jurisdiction over disputes between states, the effects of climate change can lead to more frequent water wars and land-use disputes that the court must resolve.