IMPERIAL – Imperial Irrigation District apparently has decided not to sweat Michael Abatti’s decision to appeal his case against the district to the nation’s highest court.

IID announced Monday it will not file a response to Abatti’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court over his ongoing legal dispute with the district over water rights. The exception would be if the court requests a response.

IID General Counsel Frank Oswalt said in a press release that a response is unnecessary.

“After a thorough review of Mr. Abatti’s petition, it was the unanimous conclusion of counsel that there is almost no possibility that the United States Supreme Court will grant the petition,” he said.

“The Supreme Court is not a court of general jurisdiction,” Oswalt continued. “Under our federal system, it does not involve itself in questions of whether a state law has been interpreted or applied correctly. In this case, the California Court of Appeals, Fourth Appellate District sitting in San Diego wrote a thoughtful, detailed opinion spanning more than 100 pages in which it conclusively rejected Mr. Abatti’s central proposition that he owns IID’s water rights. Neither he, nor any other water user in the IID system has an enforceable water right, other than the right to be served by the IID. Mr. Abatti’s position on the ownership of water was and is solely a question of state law. The Court of Appeal’s decision rejected Mr. Abatti’s legal argument, and the California Supreme Court saw no reason to disturb their opinion when it refused Mr. Abatti’s petition for review. The law governing this matter is settled.”

Last summer, justices with the California Fourth Court of Appeal reversed a 2017 Superior Court ruling on water rights that favored Abatti. The appellate court ruled that the district is the sole owner of water rights in the Valley, and farmers do not have an appurtenant water right but rather are entitled merely to water service that is subject to modification by the district at its discretion.

Abatti tried unsuccessfully to have the appeal reheard.

“There is absolutely nothing raised by Mr. Abatti’s Petition for Writ of Certiorari that merits any attention by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Oswalt said. “Our litigation attorneys are communicating the IID’s position that no response is needed and we expect the Court will swiftly reject Mr. Abatti’s latest filing.”

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