WASHINGTONTimothy Coates, a partner at Greines Martin Stein & Richland – a leading Los Angeles-based appellate boutique – won a U.S. Supreme Court decision today for the Los Angeles County Flood Control District in a suit brought by the National Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper claiming that the District was exceeding water quality standards by discharging polluted storm water into the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers. 

In a 9-0 decision, the Court, reversed the earlier 9th Circuit Court decision and said no violation had occurred because no pollutants were added to the water as it flowed through channels in the rivers. The court held that the flow of water from an improved portion of a navigable waterway into an unimproved portion of the very same waterway does not qualify as a discharge of pollutants under the Clean Water Act. 

Justice Ruth Ginsberg who authored the decision quoted the 2d Circuit Court in an earlier decision saying: “if one takes a ladle of soup from a pot, lifts it above the pot, and puts it back into the pot, one has not ‘added’ soup or anything else to the pot.” 

“This was a short but important opinion for the District, reinforcing that it was fulfilling its obligations under the Clean Water Act,” said Coates who argued the case in late 2012.

This is the 19th appellate court win and second U.S. Supreme Court victory for Greines Martin Stein & Richland in the past 12 months, a record second to none on the West Coast.  In each of these cases, GMSR acted as lead counsel and presented the oral argument before the court.  It is the firm’s 6th Supreme Court Victory in six years.