May 29, 2001

Decision available at: www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/00slipopinion.html

MAY 29, 2001

CONTACT: Paul Stern, Deputy Attorney General 207-626-8800

Augusta: Attorney General G. Steven Rowe announced today that the United States Supreme Court has ruled 8-0 to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Maine by the State of New Hampshire. (Justice Souter did not participate in the case.) The lawsuit claimed that the border between the two states in the middle of the Piscataqua River should be moved to Maine's shoreline.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the opinion of the Court, "Because New Hampshire, in the 1977 proceeding [in the U.S. Supreme Court], agreed without reservation that the words "Middle of the River" mean the middle of the Piscataqua River's main channel of navigation, we conclude that New Hampshire is estopped from asserting now that the boundary runs along the Maine shore."

The Court based its decision on the doctrine of judicial estoppel. The Court cited decisions of several federal courts explaining that the purpose of judicial estoppel is "to protect the integrity of the judicial process" by "prohibiting parties from deliberately changing positions according to the exigencies of the moment."

Attorney General Rowe stated: "This is a great day for Maine. This reaffirms that the boundary is in the middle of the river. We are pleased that the Court agreed with our view that we had already 'been there and done that.'" Deputy Attorney General Paul Stern, who argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, said, "I am pleased that the Court unanimously agreed with the State of Maine that New Hampshire's complaint was without merit. The Court held New Hampshire to the statements it had previously made to the Court." Assistant Attorney General Chris Taub, who served as Stern's co-counsel in the case, said, "The Court applied the legal and common sense principle that you can't win by telling a Court contradictory things at different times."