Ag News

Supreme Court appoints new special master in water case

In an Aug. 9 order, the U.S. Supreme Court discharged Maine attorney Ralph Lancaster as special master in the water suit filed by Florida against Georgia in 2013.

The court appointed Paul Kelly Jr., a judge with the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Mexico, as the new special master in the case.

In its June 27 ruling, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the special master noting that Lancaster applied too strict a standard in concluding that Florida failed to demonstrate that the Supreme Court could reach a fair ruling. 

Lancaster recommended in 2017 that the court dismiss the case, reasoning that Florida failed to show that imposing a cap on Georgia’s water use from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers would provide the relief Florida was seeking. Florida claimed that overuse of water by Georgia resulted in diminished fresh water downstream in the Apalachicola River and ultimately the Apalachicola Bay, causing harm to the oyster industry centered there. Georgia countered with arguments that overfishing resulted in the oyster losses.

Lancaster also noted that he could not provide sufficient relief to Florida because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls flows on the Flint and Chattahoochee, was not a party to the lawsuit.