Ninth Circuit Issues Trio of Decisions on Walker River

Here is the opinion in United States v. Walker River Irrigation District. From the court’s syllabus:

The panel first held that the district court was correct that it retained jurisdiction to litigate additional rights in the Walker River Basin and to modify the 1936 Decree. On the merits, the panel held that the district court erred in characterizing the counterclaims as part of a new action. The panel concluded that based on the procedural history and the fact that the Tribe and the United States brought their counterclaims under the same caption as the 1924 action, the counterclaims did not constitute a new action. The panel further held that the district court erred by dismissing the claims sua sponte on the basis of res judicata without first giving the parties an opportunity to be heard on the issue. Moreover, the panel held that because the counterclaims were not a new action, traditional claim preclusion and issue preclusion did not apply.

The panel directed that on remand, the case should be randomly reassigned to a different district judge. The panel reluctantly concluded that reassignment was appropriate because it believed (1) that Judge Jones would have substantial difficulty putting out of his mind previously expressed views about the federal government and its attorneys, and (2) that reassignment will preserve the appearance of justice.

Here is the opinion in United States v. United States Board of Water Commissioners.

Here is the opinion in Mono County v. Walker River Irrigation District. From the court’s syllabus:

In an appeal raising issues pertaining to Nevada state water law, the panel certified to the Supreme Court of Nevada the following question:

Does the public trust doctrine apply to rights already adjudicated and settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation and, if so, to what extent?