Monday, March 31, 2008

New Jersey v. Delaware -- Well, They Weren't Fighting About How Awesome They Are

One of the neatest aspect's of the U.S. Supreme Court's docket is that it is the court of first impression for disputes between the states. This is generally pretty high stakes stuff. And if you put to one side the fact that these nine justices are not so well-suited to the machinations of trial practice, it sort of makes sense. The constitutional intellectual smell test is this: if you were a state and you were sued by another state, where would you want the case to be heard. Your instinctual reaction (after you think "in my own darn courts") is probably the Supreme Court. So there you go.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided New Jersey v. Delaware, No. 134 Orig. New Jersey and Delaware have basically been fighting about who controls the Delaware River since they entered the Union. And before you make snide remarks about the Delaware River, remember that it's the one that Washington crossed on a cold morning all those years ago. We will stipulate, however, that jokes about both Delaware and New Jersey can be funny under the right circumstances.

Now the issue in today's case was whether New Jersey gets to build a big liquified natural gas (LNG) facility that pokes out onto the Delaware side of the river. We Bostonians know all about LNG and how awesome it is. The case is full of juicy tidbits, like the fact that an unnamed New Jersey legislator "looked into recommissioning the museum piece battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, in the event that the vessel might be needed to repel an armed invasion by Delaware." (Page 12)

The Court ruled for Delaware (and therefore against the LNG facility). Justice Scalia dissents, which is, of course, a shock. Especially because when you think of the Supreme Court justices that are going to be concerned about the construction of a big industrial facility in a riparian area, doesn't Antonin Scalia just leap to mind?

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