[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday appointed a special master [order, PDF] to investigate and oversee a water rights case [JURIST report; Supreme Court docket] brought by Montana against Wyoming and North Dakota. Montana officials argued in February 2007 filings [text, PDF] that Wyoming officials breached the 1950 Yellowstone River Compact [text, DOC; materials] by failing to keep consumption of water from the Tongue and Powder rivers within the compact's limits, specifically by allowing the construction of water storage facilities and the expansion of irrigation. The Court on Monday appointed lawyer Barton H. Thompson [profile] as special master
…with authority to fix the time and conditions for the filing of additional pleadings, to direct subsequent proceedings, to summon witnesses, to issue subpoenas, and to take such evidence as may be introduced and such as he may deem it necessary to call for. The Special Master is directed to submit Reports as he may deem appropriate.
AP has more.
The lawsuit was filed directly in the Supreme Court because Article III, Section 2, of the US Constitution [text] gives the court original jurisdiction over cases in which a state is a party. By statute [28 USC 1251 text], the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over "all controversies between two or more States." The Court customarily appoints a special master [Cornell LII backgrounder] to hear original jurisdiction cases in which the facts are disputed. Once the special master makes findings and recommendations, the court hears oral arguments as it would in a typical appellate case.