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John B. Draper, Leading water rights lawyer


Princeton University, B.S.E., high honors (1969)

University of New Mexico, J.D., magna cum laude (1975)

University of Stockholm, Graduate Diploma in Law (1978)

St. John's College, M.A. (1997)



New Mexico


U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico




John B. Draper

JBD Chambers 2022.jpeg

+1 505-570-4591 Direct (Santa Fe)


John B. Draper has 35 years experience representing clients in natural resources matters.  For most of that time he has focused on water rights issues, including transboundary water disputes before the U.S. Supreme Court. For eleven years, Chambers & Partners has awarded John top rankings, including "Senior Statesman" and “Star Individual”. Chambers USA 2018 calls John "a preeminent water law and natural resources attorney," adding that he "is widely acknowledged by market commentators as an 'excellent lawyer' who has taken on 'very large and high-profile water law cases nationally.'”  Previous editions of Chambers USA have noted that John "stands out for the quality and depth of his work" (2015) and that “Clients appreciate [John's] ‘encyclopedic knowledge of case law’ and ‘great trial skills,’” with one client commenting that “‘[he'd] hire him again in a heartbeat.’” (2014).


John has been counsel for one or more states before the U.S. Supreme Court continuously since 1990, and has argued before the Justices three times. He has had some 300 days of trial before Supreme Court-appointed Special Masters.  John is currently counsel to the State of New Mexico in its ongoing interstate water dispute with Texas and the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court.


He also represents private parties in water matters. Chambers USA 2014 states that “John Draper is recognized as ‘the preeminent water lawyer’” in New Mexico.   He regularly appears before the New Mexico State Engineer in administrative proceedings and appeals, court adjudications of water rights.  He also handles the purchase and sale of privately held water rights.


Before co-founding Draper & Draper in 2014, John was a shareholder for more than 30 years in the Santa Fe law firm of Montgomery & Andrews. John continues to collaborate closely with Montgomery & Andrews.


John holds numerous leadership positions in the natural resources legal bar. He has served as the co-chair of the annual New Mexico Water Law Conference for more than 20 years. He is a member of the Trustee Council of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Judicial College's Dividing the Waters program. John was the first chair of the New Mexico State Bar Natural Resources Specialization Subcommittee, and he has served on the Advisory Board of the Utton Transboundary Center at the University of New Mexico.


John is admitted to practice in New Mexico state court, the Federal district court for the District of New Mexico, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.


John is also an active supporter of numerous educational and arts institutions. He serves as a member of the Presidents' Council of St. John's College (with campuses in Santa Fe and Annapolis) and currently President of the Board of the International Folk Art Foundation, which supports the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe. He was the 2005 commencement speaker at St. John's College in Santa Fe.


John grew up in Albuquerque. He is a graduate of Highland High School. He obtained an Electrical Engineering degree from Princeton University (High Honors) and a law degree magna cum laude from the University of New Mexico. At the University of New Mexico, John served as the Editor-in-Chief of both the New Mexico Law Review and the Natural Resources Journal.


John was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and a fellowship from the American Scandinavian Foundation to study law in Sweden. He also has a Graduate Degree in the Liberal Arts from St. John's College.  He holds a Diploma in Graduate Legal Studies from the University of Stockholm and is co-author with Professor Ulf Bernitz of Consumer Protection in Sweden: Legislation, Institutions, and Practice (2d. ed. 1986, Univ. of Stockholm).


Notable representations include:

  • Kansas v. Colorado, No. 105, Orig., U.S. Supreme Court

  • Kansas v. Nebraska & Colorado, No. 126, Orig., U.S. Supreme Court

  • Montana v. Wyoming & North Dakota, No. 137 Orig., U.S. Supreme Court

  • Texas v. New Mexico & Colorado, No. 141 Orig., U.S. Supreme Court

  • International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association, Amicus Curiae Brief in Support of Neither Party, State of Mississippi v. State of Tennessee et al., No. 143 Orig., U.S. Supreme Court (2021)

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