DOÑA ANA COUNTY WINS MAJOR WATER RIGHTS LAWSUIT

DOÑA ANA COUNTY WINS MAJOR WATER RIGHTS LAWSUIT

Summary judgment has been granted to Doña Ana County in a long-litigated lawsuit brought by Gerald A. Strauss of Santa Teresa, N.M.

District Judge Jerald A. Valentine of the Third Judicial District Court issued the ruling in writing to the parties late on the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 10, 2001. The basis for his ruling was that the alleged contracts that Strauss sought to enforce against the county were void due to non-compliance with the State Procurement Code.

By issuing a summary judgment, Valentine determined that the undisputed facts of the case did not merit a trial.

Strauss initially sued the Board of County Commissioners in 1997, eventually claiming $2.5 billion in damages related to what he called “lost royalties” on water sales arising from a series of disputed contracts. In hearings last week on the county’s petition for summary judgment in the case,

Tom Figart and Ronald Greenspan argued on behalf of the county that Strauss sold the county “a bill of goods” in his promises to build a utility to serve the Santa Teresa area and provide water that the county could, in turn, sell through the newly created utility.

Figart and Greenspan argued that, although Strauss had only applied for water rights through the Office of the State Engineer; no such actual rights had been approved even 20 years after the applications were made.

In his ruling, Valentine found that Strauss was “not legally or physically capable of supplying water,” and in the absence of the utility contemplated by both parties, Strauss could lay no legitimate claim to damages.

Valentine ruled that even if Strauss could show that he had claim to all or part of the disputed water rights, the rights would have “no value to the county” under the circumstances, and therefore there were no issues of material fact upon which he could seek damages.

County Manager David R. King called Valentine’s ruling “a welcome conclusion to a protracted and costly lawsuit.”

“I believe justice has been served,” King said.

For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.