Pasadena Attorney Wins Significant Victory in 21 Year Legal Battle
Tom Bunn, partner at Pasadena law firm, Lagerlof, LLP, recently scored a significant victory in the California court of appeal in a 21-year legal battle when the court held that a municipal water supplier could not tap into an over pumped groundwater basin and acquire protectable water rights in that basin.
Bunn represented the Palmdale Water District, which has supplied its customers with water from the Antelope Valley groundwater basin since the 1920’s. In 1999, a group of farmers sued the district and other water suppliers to determine the water rights in the basin. After sixteen years of contentious litigation, Bunn helped craft a settlement that allocated the water rights in the basin and reduced all parties’ pumping to a sustainable amount. Almost all the farmers and public water suppliers accepted the settlement, which today forms the basis for managing water supplies in the basin.
One of the parties, a municipal water supplier, was not given any water rights in the settlement, because it did not start pumping from the basin until after the lawsuit was filed. It appealed, pointing out that under California law, municipal use is the highest use of water. But the court of appeal agreed with Bunn’s argument that this did not give the municipal water supplier a water right, when all the water supplies in the basin were already spoken for.
“The court of appeal correctly balanced the water rights of long-time users with the protection of the groundwater basin for future users,” said Bunn.
Mr. Bunn has substantial experience in complex negotiations in multiple issues, however he specializes particularly in water and water rights. In those negotiations, he has developed a reputation for good judgment and integrity. He has taken part in the negotiation and implementation of groundwater management plans and represents water producers in litigation.
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