SCOTUS issues first opinion in argued case of 2021 term

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The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Nov. 22 issued its ruling in the case Mississippi v. Tennessee, argued during the October sitting of the 2021 term. This marks the first opinion issued for an argued case this term. The court previously decided two non-argued cases, Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna and City of Tahlequah, Oklahoma v. Bond, on Oct. 18. 

In a unanimous ruling, the court dismissed the state of Mississippi’s complaint without permission to amend it, holding that the groundwater aquifer at issue was subject to the judicial remedy of equitable apportionment. 

In its complaint, Mississippi had asked the court to consider the following questions:

  • “Whether the Court will grant Mississippi leave to file an original action to seek relief from respondents’ use of a pumping operation to take approximately 252 billion gallons of high-quality groundwater;
  • “Whether Mississippi has sole sovereign authority over and control of groundwater naturally stored within its borders, including in sandstone within Mississippi’s borders; and
  • “Whether Mississippi is entitled to damages, injunctive, and other equitable relief for the Mississippi intrastate groundwater intentionally and forcibly taken by respondents.”

Chief Justice John Roberts penned the majority opinion, writing, “Mississippi has failed to show that it is entitled to relief. We therefore overrule Mississippi’s exceptions to the Special Master’s report, sustain Tennessee’s, and dismiss the case.”

The case came to the court under its original jurisdiction as it was a dispute among states. In such cases, SCOTUS has the right to consider the facts and the law of a case without it having first been passed on by a lower court.

To date, the court has accepted 49 cases to be argued during its 2021-2022 term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Eight cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

The court has issued decisions in three cases. Between 2007 and 2020, SCOTUS released opinions in 1,062 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

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