Continuing to reverberate around Supreme Court circles is a comment made by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. during oral argument last month in the case of South Carolina v. North Carolina, in which the issue was when and whether third parties may intervene in so-called “original jurisdiction” suits brought by a state against another state or against the United States.

The dispute between the Carolinas is over Catawba River water usage, but the oral argument on Oct. 13 was triggered by an interim recommendation that intervenors such as the city of Charlotte and Duke Energy Corp. be allowed as parties to the litigation. That recommendation was made by the special master appointed by the Court in the case: Kristin Myles, a partner in Munger, Tolles & Olson’s San Francisco office and a former law clerk to Scalia. Since original-jurisdiction cases come to the justices first, not last, the Court appoints special masters to gather facts about these cases and then to recommend to the Court how the dispute should be resolved. Myles, the first woman to hold the position, was named special master in January 2008.

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