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Case Basics
Docket No. 
105 ORIG
(Argued the cause for the defendant)
(on behalf of the United States)
(Argued the cause for the plaintiff)
Facts of the Case 

Kansas and Colorado disputed ownership of the Arkansas River. In 1949 Congress approved the Arkansas River Compact, which set out to resolve the states' dispute. In 1986 Kansas alleged Colorado violated the Compact. The U.S. Supreme Court appointed a Special Master to investigate the dispute and in 1994 the Special Master said Colorado violated the Compact. The Court agreed with the Special Master. Kansas later took issue with the Special Master's fourth set of recommendations. Kansas said it was entitled to interest from 1985 onward - before the Court's ruling against Colorado - for damages from Colorado's violations of the Compact from 1950 to 1985. Kansas also requested a "river master" to resolve a dispute over computer modeling of the river.


1.) Should the U.S. Supreme Court appoint a "river master" to resolve disputes over computer modeling of the Arkansas River? 2.) Is Kansas entitled to interest, from 1985 forward, for damages resulting from Compact violations from 1950 to 1985?

Decision: 8 votes for Colorado, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 63 Stat. 145

No and no. In an 8-1 judgment delivered by Justice Stephen Breyer, the Court denied Kansas' request to appoint a river master to decide various technical disputes between the states. A river master was inappropriate because the nature of the disputes was legal, not purely technical, and the appointment of a river master would make it easier to continue litigation. The Court also rejected Kansas' claim to all interest from 1985 forward for damages, because that would contradict the Court's ruling in an earlier dispute between the states (Kansas III). In that ruling, the Court had endorsed an equitable approach that yielded a post-1985 interest calculation based on late damages only.

Cite this Page
KANSAS v. COLORADO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_105_orig>.
KANSAS v. COLORADO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_105_orig (last visited August 26, 2015).
"KANSAS v. COLORADO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_105_orig.