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Bench Book - 1.7.1 Relief Must Be Consistent with the Compact

In Texas v. New Mexico, the Supreme Court sustained exceptions to a Special Master’s recommendation to enlarge the Pecos River Compact Commission, holding that one consequence of a Compact becoming “a law of the United States” is that “no court may order relief inconsistent with its express terms.” 462 U.S. 554, 564 (1983). The Court emphasized this principle in New Jersey v. New York, stating, “Unless the Compact . . . is somehow unconstitutional, no court may order relief inconsistent with its express terms, no matter what the equities of the circumstances might otherwise invite.” 523 U.S. 767, 769 (1998). Although these cases were original jurisdiction cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, other courts applied this principle to consider appropriate relief in cases involving interstate commissions and states’ application of Compacts. E.g., New York State Dairy Foods v. Northeast. Dairy Compact Comm’n, 26 F. Supp. 2d 249, 260 (D. Mass. 1998), aff’d, 198 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 529 U.S. 1098 (2000); HIP Heightened Independence & Progress, Inc. v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 693 F.3d 345, 357 (3d Cir. 2012).

Where the Compact does not articulate the terms of enforcement, courts have wide latitude to fashion remedies that are consistent with the purpose of the Compact. In a later Texas v. New Mexico 482 U.S. 124, 128 (1987) proceeding, the Supreme Court has opined, “By ratifying the Constitution, the States gave this Court complete judicial power to adjudicate disputes among them . . . and this power includes the capacity to provide one State a remedy for the breach of another.” The Court further notes, “That there may be difficulties in enforcing judgments against States counsels caution but does not undermine our authority to enter judgments against defendant States in cases over which the Court has undoubted jurisdiction, authority that is attested to by the fact that almost invariably the ‘States against which judgments were rendered, conformably to their duty under the Constitution, voluntarily respected and gave effect to the same.’” Id. at 130–31; see also Kansas v. Nebraska, 135 S. Ct. 1042, 1052–53, 1057 (2015) (stating that within the limits of Texas v. New Mexico, “the Court may exercise its full authority to remedy violations of and promote compliance with the agreement, so as to give complete effect to public law” and allowing a disgorgement remedy not specified in the Compact).