New York State

Sue! New Jersey’s undefeated Supreme Court record against New York

The nation’s highest court in two centuries has ruled in favor of the Garden State in at least 6 cases against its neighbor, and there could be one more with congestion pricing

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has threatened to sue New York over congestion pricing.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has threatened to sue New York over congestion pricing. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Last week was the peak of U.S. Supreme Court ruling release season, with major decisions on affirmative action and the independent state legislature theory. In the nation’s highest court, however, New York doesn’t have a stellar record against its neighbor New Jersey. In at least six cases over the past two centuries, the Empire State has notably lost. And there could be another case on the horizon, with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy threatening a lawsuit to stop congestion pricing. Here are some of New Jersey’s biggest victories over New York.

Waterfront Commission


New Jersey tried to remove itself from the 1953 Waterfront Commission Compact with New York – an agreement meant to eliminate corruption at the Port of New York and New Jersey. The U.S. Supreme Court said New Jersey could withdraw from the compact at any point.

Ellis Island


For over a century, the two states had a compact granting the rights to Ellis Island to New York. But, years later – when the island was no longer used primarily for migrants – New Jersey claimed sovereignty over parts of the island that the federal government had added over the years. The Supreme Court sided with New Jersey and found 83% of Ellis Island belonged to New Jersey.

Water diversion


New Jersey sued New York City and state over plans to divert 600 million gallons of water daily from the Delaware River’s tributaries to increase the city’s water supply. The Supreme Court allowed the diversion but capped the amount of water New York could divert at 440 million gallons per day and gave New Jersey and Pennsylvania the legal right to inspect any dams and reservoirs New York created.

Water diversion, part 2


The two states were back in court a couple decades later over the 1931 ruling. The Supreme Court entered a decree that increased the amount of water that New York could divert to 800 million gallons per day and granted some additional rights to New Jersey.

Subpoena fight


When New York refused to accept a subpoena and appear in court, New Jersey sued. The Supreme Court looked at precedent set by other American and English cases and decided that if the subpoenaed party doesn’t respond within 60 days, the court will take the case as “pro confesso,” or as if confessed. In this case, this rule was in New Jersey’s favor, as more than two months had passed from the time New York was subpoenaed.



New York state sued New Jersey and the Passaic Valley Sewerage commissioners to stop discharging sewage into the New York Harbor. The plaintiff said the dumping would pollute the water so badly that it would damage ships, create airborne diseases, cause foul odors, make the water visually dirty, endanger swimmers and make the sea life too toxic to eat. The Supreme Court decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to bolster New York’s concerns and ruled against the state.