COSTA MESA, Calif., August 4, 2015 – the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Rutan & Tucker client Rancho Pauma Mutual Water Company, upholding a previous ruling issued by the Superior Court for San Diego County that required the defendant, Yuima Municipal Water District of Pauma Valley, California, to refrain from pumping more than its authorized allotment of groundwater out of a shared groundwater basin on July 31, 2015.
The defendant had tried to get around the limitations set in the earlier water adjudication by arguing that it only applied to water use in certain areas. The trial court’s judgment confirmed that, pursuant to a prior adjudication, the defendant was subject to a “hard cap” of 1,350 acre feet per year of pumped groundwater, no matter where the water was to be used within the defendant’s service area.
According to Senior Counsel Jeremy N. Jungreis, who led the Rutan team throughout the litigation, the published decision is noteworthy in that it provides helpful guidance to water users on the proper role of the courts in construing prior water rights judgments.
The decision also provides a cautionary note for water users, and owners of other types of property, who seek to avoid the constraints of older court decrees. The Court’s opinion reinforces the point that, unless amended, the terms of prior court decrees, even if from 60 years prior, are enforceable where a court has retained jurisdiction to effectuate and enforce its prior decree.
By way of background, in 2013, Rutan attorneys successfully argued that Yuima was violating Rancho Pauma’s water rights protected by a 1953 stipulated judgment, and that Yuima’s pumping in excess of the 1953 amounts was prohibited conduct. The court had agreed, finding that Rancho Pauma had standing to enforce the terms of the Stipulated judgment and rejecting Yuima’s argument that the limitations of the stipulated judgment only applied if Yuima used the water in one particular part of its service area. The court then concluded that the pumping limitation was a hard cap on Yuima—which applies with equal force today, as it would have to Yuima’s predecessors in interest in 1953.
As a member of Rutan’s Government & Regulatory Law Section, Jeremy Jungreis assists clients with environmental compliance and water litigation, land use/natural resource issues, water supply development and defense, public agency law, utility law, strategic planning/coalition building, and governmental relations at the state, regional and local levels.
He is recognized as an expert on federal and state water law and possesses a unique understanding of the legal relationships between local, state and federal agencies on water issues, having served as special counsel to numerous Southern California water agencies, and as lead attorney for the Department of the Navy in the Santa Margarita, Mojave, and Walker River water rights adjudications.
Rutan partner Joel Kuperberg, associates Michelle Molko and Pat Donegan, and former Rutan partner and now United States Magistrate Judge Karen Scott assisted with the case.
About Rutan & Tucker LLP
Rutan & Tucker is California’s largest full-service law firm headquartered in Orange County, California with offices in Costa Mesa and Palo Alto. Primary practice areas include business and real estate litigation, corporate and securities law, labor and employment law, intellectual property, real estate, municipal and government agency law, land use law, bankruptcy, condemnation and property valuation, environmental law, and taxation and estate planning. Detailed information about the firm is available at www.rutan.com.