U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson, of Minnesota, last July issued an order in the long-simmering “water wars” between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. The judge has now issued another order that reveals him to be an advocate and not the disinterested, objective jurist Georgia is entitled to and which normal jurisprudence requires.
Judge Magnuson’s July 17th order was bad enough. In it, he went well beyond setting forth the facts, the arguments, his reasoning and his legal conclusions. The Minnesotan roundly and explicitly chastised the Atlanta metropolitan area for having developed too fast and in a way that failed to meet the judge’s view of the necessity of good planning. In so doing, the judge decided, the city had outstripped the area’s proper water allocation. For this, and based on his narrow view of congressional action and legislative interpretation, the judge issued a draconian order that — unless something happens legislatively or politically between the three states to provide for increased water to be allocated to Georgia’s human water needs — the metro area’s water withdrawals from Lake Lanier would be dramatically cut back (to the point of precipitating a true human disaster for the area’s millions of residents).
In the wake of the judge’s earlier ruling, Georgia’s Gov. Sonny Perdue made clear the state would pursue a multi-faceted response; including political talks with the neighboring states, possible action by the Congress, and further litigation. In this regard, lawyers for the state recently filed an appeal of Magnuson’s July order. Perdue would have been roundly — and justifiably — criticized had he not sought an appeal of the court’s order. After all, the stake are high, and in Georgia’s view there are legitimate and not-insignificant legal questions in the judge’s earlier ruling and reasoning.
Apparently Judge Magnuson doesn’t like having his orders appealed. He may also be oblivious to the real-world concerns of a sitting governor facing a court order that will — if not amended or rescinded — devastate his state’s economy. Or, perhaps the judge simply disdains the political arena in which elected officials must operate. Perhaps even the judge suffered an unpleasant experience in the Peach State at some point in the past for which he harbors ill-feeling. Whatever the reason, for a judge to publicly reprimand a state for doing what common sense and proper legal ethics and practice require — that is, to appeal an adverse ruling – shows quite clearly that Judge Magnuson is not serving the people or the bench of which he is a part, in a manner consistent with sound and proper jurisprudence.