Enforcement Authority Includes Ordering Disgorgement and Reformation of Certain Agreements.

More recently, the Court, noting that proceedings under its original jurisdiction are “basically equitable,” has taken the view that its enforcement authority encompasses ordering disgorgement of part of one state’s gain from its breach of an interstate compact, as well as reforming certain agreements adopted by the states.1073 In so doing, the Court emphasized that its enforcement authority derives both from its “inherent authority” to apportion interstate streams between states equitably and from Congress’s approval of interstate compacts. As to its inherent authority, the Court noted that states bargain for water rights “in the shadow of ” the Court’s broad power to apportion them equitably and it is “difficult to conceive” that a state would agree to enter an agreement as to water rights if the Court lacked the power to enforce the agreement.1074 The Court similarly reasoned that its remedial authority “gains still greater force” because a compact between the states, “having received Congress’s blessing, counts as federal law.”1075 The Court stated, however, that an interstate compact’s “legal status” as federal law could also limit the Court’s enforcement power because the Court cannot order relief that is inconsistent with a compact’s express terms.1076

Footnotes

1073
Kansas v. Nebraska, 574 U.S. ___, No. 126, Orig., slip op. at 14–17 (2015). Equity is “the system of law or body of principles originating in the English Court of Chancery.” BLACKS LAW DICTIONARY 656 (10th ed. 2014). Persons who sought equitable relief “sought to do justice in cases for which there was no adequate remedy at common law,” A.H. MANCHESTER, MODERN LEGAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND AND WALES, 1750–1950 135–36 (1980), i.e., cases in which the English courts of law could afford no relief to a plaintiff. While eventually courts of law and courts providing equitable relief merged into a single court in most jurisdictions, an equitable remedy refers to a remedy that equity courts would have historically granted. See 1 DAN B. DOBBS, DOBBS LAW OF REMEDIES: DAMAGES —EQUITY —RESTITUTION § 2.1(2), at 59–61 (2d ed. 1993). Compensatory damages are a classic “legal” remedy, whereas an injunction is a classic “equitable” remedy. See RICHARD L. HASEN, REMEDIES 141 (2d ed. 2010). [Back to text]
1074
See Kansas, slip op. at 8 (quoting Texas v. New Mexico, 462 U.S. 554, 567 (1983)). [Back to text]
1075
Id. [Back to text]
1076
Id. [Back to text]