Hood's attorneys giving water suit another try

John O'Brien Dec. 4, 2008, 2:00pm


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - Outside counsel hired by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood are trying to breathe new life into a dispute with the City of Memphis over allegedly stolen groundwater.

Lawyers argued Tuesday before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the case, dismissed in February by U.S. District Judge Glen Davidson, should be reopened, a report by The Associated Press says. The suit accused the City of Memphis of diverting millions of gallons of water everyday from Mississippi.

Judge Glen Davidson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi said in February that his court was not the proper venue for the case. Davidson said the suit should include the State of Tennessee and be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"After hearing oral argument and receiving briefs regarding the court's jurisdiction over this matter, the court rules that the State of Tennessee is a necessary and indispensable party to this action pursuant to Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure," Davidson wrote.

"This court, however, is not empowered to join Tennessee as a party to this action because original and exclusive jurisdiction of disputes between States resides with the United States Supreme Court..."

The State sought repayment for water it believes was unfairly taken since 1985 -- an estimated $1 billion.

Attorneys for Memphis argued the complaint did not show any actual injury that had taken place.

"Plaintiff avers that injunctive relief is necessary because Defendants' conduct would otherwise continue 'until the groundwater quantities and qualities are jeopardized or damaged,'" their motion to dismiss says.

"The inescapable corollary to this allegation is that Mississippi's groundwater quantities and qualities are not yet jeopardized or damaged."

Hood hired a campaign contributor to represent the State in the case.

Don Barrett gave $5,000 to Hood's 2003 campaign and was on board with the suit when it was filed in 2005, along with attorneys from Daniel, Coker, Horton & Bell in Oxford, Miss., and attorney George B. Ready.

The other defendant in the case is the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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State of Tennessee
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Knoxville, TN 37924

Mississippi Attorney General
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Jackson, MS 39201

U.S. Supreme Court
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Washington, DC 20543

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