Johnny Isakson questions SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan on Georgia water rights

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) greets Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill. Associated Press/Harry Hamburg

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) greets Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Capitol Hill. Associated Press/Harry Hamburg

My AJC colleague Bob Keefe in Washington talked with Johnny Isakson after the senator’s private session with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan this morning.

Questioning prospective justices is often fruitless. But Isakson didn’t find it so:

Isakson said he was particularly pleased with Kagan’s answers to his questions about what she might do as a Supreme Court judge considering the arguments in the tri-state water disputes between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over Atlanta’s use of Lake Lanier.

“To paraphrase, she said, ‘In the end, you’ve got to consider the human uses in all these states,’ ” Isakson said. “I found that to be a good statement, because if the governors and states can’t negotiate a water sharing agreement and it goes to court, in the end it should go back to … riparian rights,” allowing users fair use of water as long as it doesn’t harm others.

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16 comments Add your comment


May 25th, 2010
12:28 pm

Isakson wants to confirm; he’s just looking for political cover from Georgia voters.

GA Native

May 25th, 2010
1:21 pm

I’m not an Isakson fan, but that is a fair question. I’m surprised Kagen gave such a frank answer. Generally, nominees decline to respond to any questions that may come before the Court.

Ultimately, I haven’t heard anything to keep Kagen from being confirmed.

Ullysses Everett McGill

May 25th, 2010
1:33 pm

It’s a very fair question, since the Supreme Court will end up deciding this matter due to a lack of ability by all participants to reach a solution.. I’m not upset with her answer.

Dave Dawg

May 25th, 2010
1:54 pm

That was a good, pertinent question to ask. I like the answer too.

ATL Scouser

May 25th, 2010
2:07 pm

Although I’m far from being a Republican–kudos to the senator for asking an excellent question on an issue that is so crucial to our state! Now if only the rest of Congress can follow…


May 25th, 2010
2:12 pm

Johnny is useless!


May 25th, 2010
2:31 pm

This Democrat considers Isakson the state’s best current statewide politician. I’m sorry he decided not to run for governor.


May 25th, 2010
2:52 pm

He should have phrased it: “can you cover our worthless politician @&$es for years of inaction?”

The General

May 25th, 2010
3:09 pm

Good one, Aquagirl, you summed it up just right!


May 25th, 2010
3:28 pm

Hey johnny, if your concerned about “Human Uses” tell us why you and your friends bought all of the acerage around 282 Peachtree Hills Avenue for a Condo Project, (that was totally stupid in its’ price strategy,) tore down some really lovely vintage 1930’s apartments, then went broke; left all of the neighborhood a vacant lot that now looks like the Bronx comes to Buckhead! P.S. thanks for the eviction notice that came two weeks before demolition. Your expertise is not well received.


May 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

Sen. Isakson asked a pertinent question, and I’m glad he got an honest answer.


May 25th, 2010
4:53 pm

Aquagirl has it right! We’ve known our development in METRO Atlanta was far more then our small watershed can handle for 30-40 years! It takes a draconian Court ruling to get anyone to take things seriously. However, the current “lame ducks” will keep kicking the can down the road.
Everyone of voting age in this state should look at the water plans for the candidates for Governor.

I, for one, want to make sure we don’t add any more permits for interbasin transfers. I understand that at a water forum in Carrollton General Poythress said he’s opposed to interbasin transfers. He’s got a pretty solid plan for water on his site: I trust that he’s got what it takes to reach an agreement with our neighbors and solve this longtime battle!

Love those activists

May 25th, 2010
6:35 pm

So, Isakson supports judges that worry about the human implications of their decisions instead of simply looking at the law. The law doesn’t mention drinking water. I guess activism is fine, as long as I agree with the result.

Thomas Stein

May 25th, 2010
9:31 pm

Water Gal: way to plug your candidate. I’m sure that you’re just an “independent citizen” and not a campaign operative for Poythress.

Activists: Actually, there’s a ton of case law, including the most recent decision that got us into this issue, that mentions drinking water. But, you know, don’t let the facts get in the way of your argument.

Love those activists

May 26th, 2010
9:27 am

Stein: Despite the ton of case law that you so eloquently cite, the judge’s decision and the law authorizing the Buford Dam seem quite clear. Hydropower and flood control. Yes, drinking water is mentioned. (Sorry I wasn’t precise enough in my use of language.) But drinking water should be an incidental use of the project, not a primary use. I think GA and metro Atlanta leaders expect drinking water to be elevated to or above the uses specifically authorized by Congress.

Thomas Stein

May 26th, 2010
2:04 pm

Activist: so if Congress changes the law per the recent court directive, authorizing the lake for drinking water, then Kagan should not look at the law?

Incidentally, there’s a difference between criticizing or oppozing a judge because they would use an empathy standard to make decisions rather than rely on previous case law, and asking a judge their views on human use of a resource on an issue on which there is a significant amount of case law.