Colorado, Kansas AGs to appear before Supreme Court over water case

Chris Rizo Nov. 28, 2008, 12:34pm

John Suthers (R)

Steve Six (D)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Attorneys general from Colorado and Kansas on Monday will appear before the U.S. Supreme Court to settle a dispute over expert witness fees related to a long-running water dispute.

For Colorado, Attorney General John Suthers contends that his state should not have to pay $9 million in expert witness fess that Kansas says Colorado taxpayers ought to pay since it was the prevailing party in a protracted water rights case.

Suthers, a former U.S. attorney, and Kansas Attorney General Steve Six will appear in court 23 years after the original lawsuit was filed over flows in the Arkansas River.

For his part, Six will try to persuade the justices to overturn earlier rulings limiting how much Colorado has to pay Kansas for breaking their water agreement, which was signed in 1949.

In 2003, Colorado paid Kansas $34.6 million in damages and interest after it was determined that it violated its water compact with Kansas by taking more water than it was allowed from 1950 to 1996.

Monday's hearing will be the first time for Suthers or Six, who was appointed Kansas attorney general less than a year ago, to appear before the nation's highest court.

In the latest legal tussle related to the water battle, Kansas says it is owed about $10 million, arguing the federal cap on expert witnesses of $40 per day does not apply to cases that go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court since the case arrived before the justices without going through lower courts.

Kansas, among other things, is seeking reimbursement of costs for developing computer modeling used to make its case.

Arthur Littleworth, a water expert in the Riverside, Calif.-based law firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, served as the Supreme Court's special master in the case since 1987. He had a stroke earlier this year, and will not attend Monday's hearing.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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