Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt

Victory! Federal Court dismisses challenge to Congressional Review Act

Cases > Separation of Powers > Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt
Case Status: Active: Awaiting a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

PLF scored another victory against bureaucratic overreach on May 9, when the federal court in Alaska dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). At issue in this lawsuit was a regulation known as the Refuges Rule, which greatly restricted access to and use of land within Alaskan Wildlife Refuges. Congress used the CRA to invalidate the rule—a move promptly challenged in court by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). Representing coalition of individual Alaskans and related organizations, PLF successfully intervened to support the CRA’s constitutionality.

During the Obama Administration, the Department of the Interior enacted a rule that prohibits hunting of predatory animals such as wolves and bears. This rule severely restricts access to and use of land within Alaskan National Wildlife Refuges.

Early in 2017, Congress invalidated the rule by passing Public Law No. 115-20 through use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA)—a move promptly challenged in court by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which challenged the constitutionality of the CRA itself.

The CRA allows Congress and the President to disapprove rules adopted by agencies. Here’s how it works: (1) agencies must report every rule they adopt to Congress; then (2) within 60 legislative days, both houses of Congress can use fast-track procedures to pass a bill disapproving the rule; and, if they do (3) the bill goes to the President for his signature. The CRA also provides that when Congress repeals an agency rule, the agency may not issue future rules that are “in substantially the same form” as the rule that was repealed.

In its suit, CBD argued the CRA violates the separation of powers by limiting the power of the Executive Branch, and that Congress can’t second guess agency rules unless it completely rewrites the statute under which the rule was issued.

PLF intervened on behalf of Kurt Whitehead, Joe Letarte, the Alaska Outdoor Council, and Big Game Forever, representing tens of thousands of individual hunters, fishers, hikers, outdoorsmen, and even photographers, who would have been prevented from using these lands. On May 9, 2018, a federal judge in Alaska dismissed the CBD’s baseless lawsuit. The favorable ruling move defends Congress’s proper role as the first branch of government and validates the CRA as a viable legislative tool to rein in agency overreach.

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What’s at stake?

  • The Congressional Review Act provides a necessary check on regulatory action by allowing Congress its rightful opportunity to oversee agency actions and consider disapproving some rules.

Case Timeline

Reply Brief

December 22, 2017 Download

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke Documents 5-4-17

May 04, 2017 Download

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke Documents 5-4-17 (2)

May 04, 2017 Download

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke Documents 5-4-17 (3)

May 04, 2017 Download

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke Documents 5-4-17 (4)

May 04, 2017 Download

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke Documents 5-4-17 (5)

May 04, 2017 Download

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke Documents 5-4-17 (6)

May 04, 2017 Download

Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke Documents 5-4-17 (7)

May 04, 2017 Download

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