Interstate Disputes

The Supreme Court's Original Jurisdiction

By Joseph F. Zimmerman

Subjects: American Government
Paperback : 9780791468340, 244 pages, June 2007
Hardcover : 9780791468333, 244 pages, July 2006

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Table of contents


1. The United States Supreme Court

2. Discretionary Original Jurisdiction

3. The Special Master

4. The Court’s Boundary Decisions

5. Escheats and Taxation Controversies

6. Interstate Water Controversies

7. Miscellaneous Court Decisions

8. Alternative Resolution of Interstate Controversies


Examines the role of the U. S. Supreme Court in settling disputes between states.


With respect to "controversies between two or more states," the U. S. Constitution grants original jurisdiction to the U. S. Supreme Court, and in 1789 Congress made exclusive the Court's jurisdiction over interstate disputes. In this book, Joseph F. Zimmerman examines the role of the Supreme Court in settling disputes between states, the criteria developed by the Court to determine whether its original jurisdiction should be invoked, and the function of special masters, who, as adjuncts to the Court, facilitate negotiated settlements or provide the factual information needed by the Court to render sound decisions. Zimmerman analyzes a wide range of specific disputes, from boundary lines to financial matters to water allocation, diversion, and pollution. To alleviate the Court's exceptionally heavy and critically important appellate workload, the author proposes alternative mechanisms for resolving controversies between sister states, including interstate boundary compacts, interstate regulatory compacts, and several congressional initiatives.

Joseph F. Zimmerman is Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He is the author of many books, including Congressional Preemption: Regulatory Federalism and Interstate Economic Relations, both also published by SUNY Press.


"…Zimmerman has made a valuable contribution to the scholarly literature about federalism in the US in general, and about the US Supreme Court in particular … Zimmerman's work is an excellent exposition on a little known and understudied topic. His book should be read by all serious students of interstate relations in the United States and of the US Supreme Court. " — Publius: The Journal of Federalism

"Interstate Disputes fills a discernible and significant gap in the academic literature on the subject of interstate disputes and the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction. " —American Journal of Legal History

"This work exhibits the solid scholarship we have come to expect from Professor Zimmerman. Written from the perspective of traditional doctrinal analysis, it is public policy advocacy in the best tradition of the discipline of Political Science. " — Law and Politics Book Review

"Zimmerman has done a masterful job of identifying and elaborating upon those interstate disputes that have been most commonly adjudicated by the U. S. Supreme Court, and he also takes note of the rather unique interstate disputes that have been settled by the Court, including matters involving the bonds of one state held by another state, the pre–Civil War debt of Virginia, sale of convict-made articles, state quarantines, and the electoral college voting system. He presents a convincing case for the states to make a stronger effort to negotiate their differences and resolve their disputes by entering into interstate compacts. The book fills a serious void in the literature on interstate relations. " ― Nelson Wikstrom, coauthor of American Intergovernmental Relations: A Fragmented Federal Polity