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Charlotte Area News

Charlotte takes a new tack in Carolinas water war

The City of Charlotte has a new strategy to try and play a larger role in the ongoing lawsuit between North and South Carolina over the Catawba River. South Carolina contends its northern neighbor is taking too much water. Charlotte may be the biggest water user on the Catawba, but the U.S. Supreme Court has decided the city will have to rely on the State of North Carolina to officially represent its concerns in the lawsuit. Charlotte had hoped for full party status in the case as an intervener. Now the city is asking for a less formal - but still influential - role called "amicus curiae." Charlotte City Attorney Mac McCarley says the city wants to be part of regular conference calls between the states' attorneys and the special master appointed to oversee the lawsuit, as well as hearings and depositions. He also wants to be on the special email list attorneys and the court use to share documents. "This case is really mostly about Charlotte's water use," says McCarley. "The evidence that we have, the information we have, and the meaning of that information is going to be critical to the special master to understand this case. We'd like to be able to present that information and to explain that information." It's common for groups that are not technically part of a lawsuit to file amicus, or friend of the court, briefs expressing their point of view. But Elon University Law Professor Catherine Dunham says Charlotte is requesting an unusual level of involvement. "They want to have the communication status, if you will, of a 'party' where they get all the stuff and they're allowed to attend," says Dunham. "The question that begs to me is if you're the judge and you grant this request, and they can attend depositions, can they object? Can they talk to the witnesses during the depositions?" McCarley says that would be up to the judge, but that in many cases Charlotte will have input that's important to share. Attorneys for South Carolina object to Charlotte's request for special involvement, saying the city should be limited to filing traditional amicus briefs and monitoring the case through public documents. The extent of Charlotte's participation in the water lawsuit now depends on a decision by California attorney Kristin Linsley Myles who has been appointed by the Supreme Court to oversee the case.