Monday, October 15, 2007

Tell It To The Judge(s)

The US Supreme Court today ordered (PDF) that lawyers for Delaware and New Jersey appear before the Court in November to present oral arguments in their long-standing dispute over who controls a portion of the Delaware River.

I've written about this case before. There is a proposal to build a Liquid Natural Gas terminal in New Jersey. It would include a pier into the Delaware River in a portion of the river that, by century-old treaty and by early 20th-century Supreme Court decree, is part of Delaware. Such a pier would require a permit under Delaware's Coastal Zone Act.

Delaware said "no" back in 2005. New Jersey was not pleased. They threatened a boycott. They blustered a bit. And they took us to court; they asked for this case to go right up to the Supreme Court.

The Supremes assigned a "Special Master" to hear arguments from both sides. He ruled (PDF) in April of this year that Delaware can indeed deny permission for the pier. New Jersey was not pleased. They took exception (which turns out to be a legal term) and so the two states will send lawyers to Washington DC on November 27 to argue the case.

That should be fascinating. My interest is mostly in questions about the state boundary itself. I take a professional interest in that boundary as an elemental geospatial data Framework item. There's also the rich and goofy history of those lines, the politics behind them, and the colonial surveyors who drew them. Richly goofy, political, and historical stories always interest me.

The oral arguments are more likely to focus on things like the differences between Riparian Rights and Riparian Jurisdiction. But when you get in front of the whole group of Supreme Court justices there's no telling what might get discussed. The Delaware/New Jersey boundary is unusual; it might spark some Supreme interest.

I'd love to be there.

1 comment:

Matt M. #29 said...

"Elemental geospatial data Framework item" - C'mon! Quit it!

(Name drop warning! This is the only famous Judge I know.) I was chatting with Chief Justice Roberts on Friday night (his daughter hangs with Gracie and his wife is a pal of Lynn's) and he mentioned the "mixed bag" of issues that make his job fun. He suggested that it wasn't all dull and dry on the Big Court. Maybe New Jersey v. Delaware is one of the cases he had in mind?

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