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IID Will Not File Response to Abatti’s Supreme Court Petition

The Imperial Irrigation District will not be filing a response to Mike Abatti’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court unless the court requests one, the IID stated in a press release on Monday, April 12.

“After a thorough review of Mr. Abatti’s petition, it was the unanimous conclusion of counsel that there is almost no possibility that the United States Supreme Court will grant the petition,” stated IID General Counsel Frank Oswalt in the press release.

Michael Abatti, Imperial County farmer

“The Supreme Court is not a court of general jurisdiction. Under our federal system, it does not involve itself in questions of whether a state law has been interpreted or applied correctly. In this case, the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District sitting in San Diego wrote a thoughtful, detailed opinion spanning more than 100 pages in which it conclusively rejected Mr. Abatti’s central proposition that he owns IID’s water rights,” Oswalt explained in the release.

“Neither (Abatti), nor any other water user in the IID system has an enforceable water right, other than the right to be served by the IID. Mr. Abatti’s position on the ownership of water was and is solely a question of state law. The Court of Appeal’s decision rejected Mr. Abatti’s legal argument, and the California Supreme Court saw no reason to disturb their opinion when it refused Mr. Abatti’s petition for review. The law governing this matter is settled,” according to Oswalt.

“There is absolutely nothing raised by Mr. Abatti’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari that merits any attention by the U.S. Supreme Court. Our litigation attorneys are communicating the IID’s position that no response is needed, and we expect the court will swiftly reject Mr. Abatti’s latest filing,” stated Oswalt in conclusion.

Abatti filed a petition for “writ of certiorari” on or around Monday, March 29.

The “writ of certiorari” petition, which means to be “fully informed” and seeks to have an appellate court review a case at its discretion, is arguing that the California appellate court ignored federal law and the Supreme Court’s prior ruling in Bryant v. Yellen (1980) regarding the rights of Imperial Valley farmers, according to a press release from Abatti at the time of filing.

In the Bryant case to which the Imperial Irrigation District was a party, according to the Abatti release, the district had argued that farmers, not the district, owned water rights which were appurtenant to their lands consistent with federal law under the provisions of “§ 8 of the 1902 Reclamation Act,” which provides “(t)he right to the use of water acquired under the provisions of this (Reclamation) Act shall be appurtenant to the land irrigated, and beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure, and the limit of the right.”  

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