April 13, 2016

Audio Highlights and Analysis of PLF’s Oral Argument in the U.S. Supreme Court

By Audio Highlights and Analysis of PLF’s Oral Argument in the U.S. Supreme Court

On this special episode of Courting Liberty, PLF Director of Litigation Jim Burling recounts PLF’s recent visit to Washington D.C. using audio clips from the Hawkes oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court with attorneys Reed Hopper, Mark Miller and PLF President and CEO Rob Rivett.

Through a “Jurisdictional Determination,” the Army Corps of Engineers designated property owned by The Hawkes Co., Inc., Pierce Investment Company, and LPF Properties, in Minnesota, as “wetlands” over which the Corps has regulatory authority. On appeal, the threshold issue is whether property owners have the legal right to bring a court challenge to such a regulatory finding.

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes

Hawkes Company is a family-owned business in Minnesota that harvests peat moss, for landscaping. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers improperly claimed jurisdiction over the property as regulated wetlands. This put Hawkes in the untenable position of (1) abandoning all use of the land at great loss; (2) spending several hundred thousand dollars to seek an unnecessary federal permit; or (3) using the land without federal approval at the risk of $37,500-a-day fines and criminal prosecution. When Hawkes challenged the Corps in court, lower courts dismissed the case as unripe for review. But the Supreme Court disagreed, holding that a Jurisdictional Determination is a binding legal decision subject to immediate judicial challenge.

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