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When a State properly invokes the United States Supreme Court's jurisdiction to seek redress for a wrong perpetrated against it by a sister State, neither the measure of damages that the court ultimately determines to be proper nor the court's method for calculating those damages can retrospectively negate the court's jurisdiction. Nor would the court's jurisdiction to order a damages remedy be affected by the State's postjudgment decisions concerning the use of the money recovered from the other State. It is the State's prerogative either to deposit the proceeds of any judgment in the general coffers of the State or to use them to benefit those who were hurt.
The Arkansas River flows through Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas and empties into the Mississippi River. In 1949, Congress approved the Arkansas River Compact (63 Stat 145), an agreement between Colorado and Kansas, designed to settle existing claims and remove future causes of controversy between Colorado and Kansas relating to the waters of the Arkansas River. In 1986, the United States Supreme Court granted Kansas leave to file a complaint alleging violations of the Compact by Colorado. A Special Master was appointed who recommended that two of Kansas' claims be denied, but recommended that the court find that Colorado had violated the Compact through increased pumping of ground water which had materially depleted the water of the Arkansas River downstream in Kansas. The court remanded the case to the Special Master to determine appropriate remedies and assess damages. Subsequently, after the Special Master filed his third report in the case, which report made certain recommendations concerning damages, Colorado filed four exceptions to the report--that (1) the recommended award of damages would violate the Federal Constitution's Eleventh Amendment, which prohibited suits by individuals against states in federal court, (2) the damages award ought not to include prejudgment interest, (3) the amount of interest awarded was excessive, and (4) the Special Master had improperly credited flawed testimony by Kansas' experts, with the result that Kansas' crop production losses from the water diversion had been improperly calculated--and Kansas filed an exception on the asserted basis that that prejudgment interest ought to be paid from 1950, rather than 1969, as had been determined by the Special Master.
Do the damages awarded by the Special Master violate the Eleventh Amendment which prohibited suits by individuals against states in federal court?
Previous cases made it clear that a "State is not permitted to enter a controversy as a nominal party in order to forward the claims of individual citizens.” The "governing principle" is that in order to invoke our original jurisdiction, "the State must show a direct interest of its own and not merely seek recovery for the benefit of individuals who are the real parties in interest." Kansas had unquestionably made such a showing. Indeed, the present proceeding was but one of several in which Kansas' own interest in preventing upstream diversions from the Arkansas River has justified an exercise of the Court’s original jurisdiction. The Court even offered as an example of proper original jurisdiction one of the prior original suits between Kansas and Colorado in a previous case, and in Texas v. New Mexico the court held that enforcement of an interstate water compact by means of a recovery of money damages can be within a State's proper pursuit of the "general public interest" in an original action. Moreover, the record in this case plainly discloses that the State of Kansas had been in full control of this litigation since its inception. Its right to control the disposition of any recovery of damages was entirely unencumbered. The injury to individual farmers was but one component of the formula adopted by the Special Master to quantify the damages caused by Colorado's violation of its contractual obligations. In short, there was simply nothing in the record to suggest that the State of Kansas is merely a "nominal party" to this litigation or that the individual farmers are "the real parties in interest."