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Nevada May Create ‘Water Court’ System

Via The Review Journal, a report that Nevada may create a new ‘water court’:

As disputes over water rights increasingly end up in lengthy legal battles, the Nevada Supreme Court is potentially looking to reshape how the nation’s driest state handles water law.

Nevada’s high court on Wednesday held a public hearing on a petition that would create a new commission that would study how water cases in Nevada are adjudicated, as well as how the state can improve education, training, timeliness and efficiency of of the state’s courts in handling complex water cases. The court did not vote on the proposal during Wednesday’s hearing.

The petition was brought by Chief Justice James Hardesty, who said the idea came after speaking to several water law attorneys and judges who handle water cases.

“While water law is a challenging, complex and infrequently agreed upon subject in our law, what was a consistent theme in all of the conversations that I have had was the perceived benefits of a study that would look at how the judicial system adjudicates water law matters in the future,” Hardesty said.

One of the things Hardesty would want the commission to consider, according to his petition, is allowing the chief justice of the Supreme Court to designate specific District Court judges to handle all water cases in the state, essentially creating a water court system.

Four other western states — Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho and Montana — have implemented some kind of specialized court to handle water cases. The water courts in those states typically also involve some specialized education and training for judges.

Most who took part in or submitted written comments for Wednesday’s virtual hearing, including state water officials, environmental groups and those who practice in the area said they are supportive of looking at how the court system deals with the century-old water law.

“Decisions of the state engineer are often highly technical and specialized,” acting State Engineer Adam Sullivan said during the hearing. “Our division recognizes the need for the state to provide expedient judicial review of water cases, well into the future.”

In written comments submitted before the hearing, White Pine County District Court Judge Gary Fairman said water cases have become a “regular part of my docket for the past 8 years and there seems to be no end in sight for water litigation in Nevada,”

“Although I enjoy sitting on water litigation cases, there is no doubt that they are complex and require a considerable amount of judicial time,” Fairman said.



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