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IID Files Response to Abatti’s Supreme Court Case

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The Imperial Irrigation District has filed its initial response to Imperial Valley grower, landowner and former elected official Michael Abatti’s U.S. Supreme Court case.

Abatti filed a petition for “writ of certiorari” with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Abatti v. Imperial Irrigation District.

Michael Abatti, Imperial County farmer

Abatti is seeking to overturn a previous appellate court ruling that asserts Imperial Irrigation District is the “sole owner” of water rights in the Valley, and farmers do “not (have) an appurtenant water right” but rather are entitled merely to “water service” that is subject to modification by the district at its discretion.

The clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court directed IID to file a response after IID counsel previously said an IID response to the Abatti petition for a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court was unnecessary.

“The petition in this case is built on a house of cards,” according to the IID’s filing. “Petitioners’ entire argument is premised on the notion that this court in Bryant vs. Yellen not only held that landowners in the Imperial Valley in California have a federally protected right to water from the public irrigation district, but held that landowners have a federally protected and irrevocable right to a particular allocation of water.

“In fact, Bryant held neither,” the filing continues. “The only federally protected water right Bryant recognized is the water right perfected by the irrigation district itself. And while Bryant recognized that the landowners have a state-law right to water service, the Court expressly resolved the case on the premise that ‘no individual farm in the District has a permanent right to any specific proportion of the water held in trust by the District.’”

IID’s deadline to file in the matter was Wednesday, May 26.