Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What Is a Special Master's Notice and Order to Show Cause?

This blog articles provides an explanation of a "Special Master's Notice and Order to Show Cause Why Objection to State Engineer's Proposed Determination Should Not Be Dismissed," and what should be done in response to such a Notice.

A General Adjudication is a court action to determine all water rights in a specific area. The Division of Water Rights plays an important role in the General Adjudication, including the preparation of a Proposed Determination, which is a recommendation to the court of the status and quantification of all water rights in the area.

Several decades ago, a General Adjudication was initiated in the Utah Lake and Jordan River area, which area covers all or parts of Salt Lake County, Utah County, Wasatch County, Summit County, and Sanpete County. This large area was divided into smaller "subdivisions," and Proposed Determinations were issued for many of these subdivisions. As allowed by law, some water users filed objections to water rights in the Proposed Determinations. In some circumstances, water users filed objections on their own water rights. For example, a water user may have felt that the Proposed Determination quantified his/her water right for less water than should have been allowed. In other circumstances, water users filed objections on other people's water rights. For example, a water user may have felt that a neighboring user was granted more water than should have been allowed.

These objections, which were filed with the district court, were never fully resolved through the court process. Accordingly, these objections have remained unsettled for several decades. In order to help get these objections resolved, the district court has appointed a Special Master to handle the objections. To get the process started, the Special Master is sending out a "Special Master's Notice and Order to Show Cause Why Objection to State Engineer's Proposed Determination Should Not Be Dismissed" for each objection. The Notice is being sent to each objector and/or successor-in-interest to each objector. Because decades have passed since the objections were originally filed, in many cases the people receiving these notices may have no idea that their predecessor filed an objection.

If a person receives a Notice, they will need to determine whether they want to pursue the objection. If they elect to pursue the objection, they will need to file the "Notice of Intent to Proceed with Objection Proceeding" with the court within 35 days of the date of the Notice. The Special Master will then set a scheduling conference in order to set a schedule for the objection to proceed through the court process.

If you have received a Notice and need assistance understanding the objection and determining whether to proceed with the objection, contact me to set up an initial consultation.

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