First SCOTUS ruling of new session rejects Mississippi’s claim on underground aquifer

The new session of the U.S. Supreme Court just kicked off, and their first official decision was not the highly-anticipated ruling on Texas’ controversial anti-abortion bill, but instead, the high court’s first ruling dealt with a state vs. state matter.

According to the Associated Press, in a unanimous decision, the justices ruled on a case involving a fight between Mississippi and Tennessee over who has the rights to an underground aquifer that happens to sit underneath both states. 

The interstate water dispute, which stems from a 2005 case, included Mississippi contending that it owns the groundwater beneath the two states, but Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the claim, citing past precedent of “equitable apportionment” when disputes involve water such as lakes and rivers.

“We see things differently”

In his final decision, Justice Roberts wrote that Mississippi “contends that it has sovereign ownership of all groundwater beneath its surface, so equitable apportionment ought not apply. We see things differently.”

Though the case doesn’t involve a lake or a river, which is most common in such claims, even with the water hundreds of feet underground, Roberts added that the high court saw “no basis for a different result.”

Not surprisingly, Tennessee officials praised the Supreme Court’s ruling in a statement issued shortly after the decision came down.

“We now have some finality. It’s a clear victory for Tennessee on all issues, and for all states who share underground water resources,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III said of the decision.

What about Texas?

Over the weekend, a number of court watchers were largely convinced that SCOTUS would issue a ruling on the anti-abortion bill passed in Texas earlier this year, which bans virtually all abortions after the six-week mark of pregnancy, and allows private citizens to act as legal watchdogs.

When it was realized on Monday that the high court would not be making a ruling on the high-profile case, many were upset as a result, including a number of Democrats and pro-abortion groups. Their primary concern is due to the fact that the anti-abortion law has been allowed to remain in effect until the high court issues a ruling.

“The Supreme Court has allowed Texas’s abhorrent anti-abortion law to remain in effect for 83 days,” pro-court packing group Demand Justice said in a statement, according to Fox News.

The group, run by former advisers to Barack Obama, added: “We cannot keep waiting for this Court to act in the interests of the American people – it’s time to #ExpandTheCourt.”

“Many guessed the Supreme Court would weigh in on the Texas law today but it turned out to be a giant head fake,” Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said, as he went on to slam SCOTUS for acting “with so little transparency” on the issue.

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