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Litigant participation and success in water rights cases in the Western States

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Over the years, many decisions concerning the rights to water resources have been addressed in state legislatures and federal courts; however, the majority of decisions concerning the conflicting demands over water have been addressed in state courts. This study examines the body of water rights cases heard in state supreme courts of the eleven Western states and focus on litigant participation and success. The data set includes all the water rights cases decided between 1972 and 2008 in the eleven western state high courts (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming). The study explores the propensity of different types of litigants to initiate water rights cases at the state supreme court level, and also examines litigation patterns to determine which litigants are the targets of these appeals. Galanter's (1974) party capability theory is used to help explain patterns of litigant success.