Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Florida v. Georgia

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20107
Nos. No. 142, Orig., (U.S., 06/27/2018)

The U.S. Supreme Court, in an ongoing dispute between Florida and Georgia over the apportionment of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin's waters, remanded a Special Master's recommendation that Florida's request for a cap on Georgia's consumption of water from the Flint River be denied. Florida argued that Georgia is consuming more than its equitable share of Flint River water, asserting that more water would flow down the Apalachicola River if Georgia consumed less water from the Flint River and, thus, help to recover and maintain Florida's oyster industry. A court-appointed Special Master recommended that Florida's complaint be dismissed, concluding that Florida failed to present clear and convincing evidence that its injuries could be redressed by a decree capping Georgia's upstream water consumption if the decree does not also bind the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that the Special Master applied too strict a standard in concluding that Florida failed to meet its initial burden of demonstrating that the court can fashion an appropriate equitable decree. Unless and until the Special Master makes the findings of fact necessary to determine the nature and scope of likely harm caused by the absence of water and the amount of additional water necessary to ameliorate that harm significantly, Florida should not have to prove with specificity the details of an eventually workable decree by clear and convincing evidence. The court, therefore, remanded the case to the Special Master for further proceedings. Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.J., and Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor, JJ. joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Alito, Kagan, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined.