Cases

Sort By:
Minnesota Assoc. Builders and Contractors v. Minneapolis Public School District

Bulldozing unfair, illegal union-rigged construction scheme

With 75 buildings and 35,000 students, there’s plenty of construction work in the Minneapolis School District. But many hardworking Minnesotans never get a shot at a school project. In 2004, the district adopted a project labor agreement, or PLA, that favors politically powerful unions over nonunion contractors. This type of agreement forces ...

Lent v. California Coastal Commission

Massive—and unconstitutional—beach access fines threaten family home

In 2016, the Lents received the California Coastal Commission’s first ever fine—$4.185 million—for blocking public access to the beach. The home sits 20 feet above the beach and, without stairs or a ramp, the public cannot safely get to the beach. The property originally included an outdoor stairway and a gate to block the large drop—bo ...

Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ranchers fight illegal critical habitat designation

In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated as critical habitat some 14,000 acres of land and 170 miles of streams in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico for the jumping mouse. The designation severely limits ranchers’ access to grazing land and watering spots and, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, adds $20 million in regul ...

Vaping Litigation

The Constitution going up in vapor

Electronic nicotine delivery systems—vaping devices and e-cigarettes—first hit U.S. stores in 2007. It didn’t take long for vaping to jump from zero to a $5 billion domestic industry, as entrepreneurs quickly recognized a market hungry for an alternative to traditional cigarettes. In 2016, just as the burgeoning vaping industry was gettin ...

Coastal Rights Coalition v. California Coastal Commission

California coastal homeowners at risk by Coastal Commission’s illegal seawall policy

When coastal property owners seek permits for new residential development, the California Coastal Commission requires them to agree never to build a seawall to protect the structure from storms and erosion. This policy was imposed by fiat, without public notice, hearings, and opportunity for public comment, as required by the California Administra ...

Town of Coos Bay, Oregon v. National Marine Fisheries Service

Endangered Species Act abuse forces federal zoning control on local communities

Federal bureaucrats are twisting environmental and emergency management law to control zoning across Oregon, including its treasured coastal regions. At issue is a National Marine Fisheries Service opinion that governs FEMA’s national flood insurance program. Under the rule, local communities wanting federal flood insurance must abstain from ...

Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Government-sanctioned private land grabs over absent animals are illegal

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its fall term on October 1, 2018, with the famous “frog case” out of Louisiana. That’s where federal regulators declared more than 1,500 acres of private land as a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog—a species not seen in the state for more than 50 years. PLF client Edward Poitevent owns 95 p ...

California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Fish and Game Commission

Wandering lone wolf in California triggers “endangered” listing

Based on the sighting of a lone non-native gray wolf in California, the state Fish and Game Commission listed the gray wolf species under the California Endangered Species Act, effective January 1, 2017. On behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and their members, PLF sued to invalidate this i ...

Duarte Nursery v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Wheat farmer vs. the federal government: will the Constitution prevail?

John Duarte and Duarte Nursery, in rural Tehama County, California, received a cease and desist order from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for engaging in normal farming activities (i.e., plowing) that purportedly affected wetlands. Duarte was not permitted any type of hearing to defend himself. … ...

Massachusetts Lobstermen v. Ross.

President Obama’s abuse of Antiquities Act declares 5,000 square miles of ocean off-limits

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to declare monuments on “land owned or controlled by the Federal government” to protect their historic or scientific value. On his way out of office, President Obama used this power to declare a 5,000 square mile area of the ocean to be the Northeast Canyons and Seamount Marine Nation ...

Granat v. U.S. Department of Agriculture

Fighting to keep public lands open to all

Using the pretext of a transportation plan update, the U.S. Forest Service shut down thousands of previously accessible roads and trails—nearly 700 miles’ worth—within the Plumas National Forest. By forbidding any motor vehicle access, the policy prevents Amy Granat, who cannot walk unaided, from using a motorized vehicle to access vast a ...

Petitions to Repeal 50 C.F.R. § 17.31

Unauthorized expansion of the ESA is a “take” of landowners’ rights

PLF filed parallel petitions asking the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior to rescind an illegally-adopted regulation that extends the Endangered Species Act’s “take” prohibition to all threatened species, including those not yet listed. The ESA treats endangered and threatened species differently. The penalties ...

Ross v. Acadian Seaplants Ltd.

Secure property rights are key to conservation efforts

Kenneth Ross owns coastal property on Cobscook Bay, Maine, on which rockweed grows in the intertidal area. Acadian Seaplants is licensed by the state to collect rockweed in areas “where seaweed may legally be taken.” Ross and other coastal owners sued to stop Acadian from harvesting rockweed on their property and Arcadian argues that th ...

Desert Water Authority & Coachella Valley Water District v. Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

A federal “reservation” of groundwater implicates takings liability for users exercising state water rights

The Agua Caliente tribe resides on a federal reservation that consists of a patchwork of parcels throughout California’s Coachella Valley. The tribe runs several commercial enterprises on the land, including casinos, hotels, and the like. Under California law, the tribe shares rights to the valley’s groundwater with other cities, water ...

Benedetti v. County of Marin, California

Marin County adopts unconstitutional “forced farming” plan

Marin County’s new Land Use Plan requires landowners who currently use their land for agricultural purposes to remain “actively and directly engaged” in agriculture in perpetuity. This requirement is tied to building permits within the county’s agricultural zone. For PLF client Willie Benedetti, owner of Benedetti Farms and ...

American Municipal Power v. Environmental Protection Agency

Administrative agencies cannot demand perfection

Dozens of industrial companies and trade organizations challenged two Clean Air Act-related boiler regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): the Major Boilers Rule and the Area Boilers Rule. These rules allow uninjured citizens to sue regulated companies should their boilers malfunction. Lower courts upheld the rule and the ...

Scott Timber Company v. Oregon Wild

Putting a thumb on the scale to benefit environmentalist plaintiffs

In environmental litigation, preliminary injunctions—orders from the court for a defendant to stop challenged activities while a case proceeds—are a way of life. Environmental plaintiffs routinely seek and obtain preliminary injunctions that can grind expensive, multi-year projects to a standstill. They do so because courts “presume” ...

Associated Builders and Contractors-California Cooperation Committee v. Becerra

California law allows unions to shut down speech contrary to their policy preferences

California law requires contractors on public projects to pay employees the “prevailing wage” (generally equal to a union wage) through a combination of cash wages and other benefits, including making donations to “industry advancement” advocacy organizations. A new law allows only pro-union organizations to receive such don ...

Rob Roy Ramey v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Feds should jump at the chance to delist prolific mouse

On behalf of a broad coalition of sound science and property rights advocates, PLF filed a petition with the federal government to delist the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse from the Endangered Species Act. The government originally listed the mouse on the theory that it was a distinct subspecies whose numbers were declining. However, later stu ...

Cascadia Wildlands v. Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

Oregon properly withdrew special protected status for thriving wolf packs

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission removed the Canadian timber wolf subspecies of gray wolf from the state’s endangered species list in late 2015. Three environmentalist groups opposed this decision and sued to invalidate the delisting. On behalf of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association a ...

National Federation of Independent Business v. Williams

Colorado evades state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

Colorado voters added the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to their state constitution to ensure voter approval of all state and local tax increases. Government frequently attempts to dodge this provision by characterizing charges as “fees,” which do not require voter approval. The difference between a tax and a fee is that a fee defrays ...

Bohmker v. Oregon

Federal mining law preempts Oregon’s ban on suction-dredge mining

Oregon decided to outlaw “suction dredging,” the only profitable method of mining gold from streambed deposits. Suction dredging uses a small, lawn mower-sized motor and an underwater vacuum hose to suck up and filter gold out of streambed sediment. The federal Mining Act, however, encourages free and open exploration for valuable miner ...

Tin Cup, LLC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Frozen ground is not “navigable water”

Richard Schok runs Tin Cup, LLC, a small family-owned pipe fabrication business in North Pole, Alaska. The Army Corps of Engineers won’t let his growing business relocate to land containing permafrost—land that’s frozen all year long—because the agency claims permafrost is federally protected wetland. However, its permafrost designa ...

Gerawan Farming v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board

California unconstitutionally imposes mandatory arbitration for labor contracts in the agricultural sector

Gerawan Farming is a family-owned company that grows grapes and stone fruit in the San Joaquin Valley. Unique in the nation, a California statute compels agricultural employers and their employees’ unions to assent to collective bargaining agreements. Rather than being negotiated at arm’s length, these agreements’ terms are dictat ...

Center for Biological Diversity v. Otter

States are not the handmaidens of the federal government

Idaho permits the trapping of certain animals valued for their fur. The regulations require a state permit and require the traps to be checked every 72 hours so that non-targeted species are released. Hunters must notify the state whenever a trap catches a non-targeted species. A radical environmental group sued the state for alleged violation of t ...

Gunderson v. State of Indiana; LBLHA, LLC v. Town of Long Beach, Indiana

Grabby, grabby! Indiana takes private lakefront property for public sunbathing and volleyball

The state of Indiana and some Indiana towns bordering Lake Michigan declared privately-owned lakefront property to be public land and invited the public to engage in recreational activities on it. The property owners sued because their dry beach property, for which they own the title deed and on which they pay taxes, is not subject to the “pu ...

Universal Welding, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Regulatory creep: asserting jurisdiction over the land next door

The Clean Water Act gives the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over wetlands, including wetlands that are adjacent to other jurisdictional waters such as navigable rivers or lakes. The law does not give the Corps jurisdiction over wetlands that are adjacent to other wetlands. Universal Welding is a family-owned steel and pipe fabrication busine ...

Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board

The state has no “public trust” power over groundwater

Environmentalists sued the State of California and Siskiyou County on the theory that the government’s failure to regulate groundwater violates the public trust doctrine. This doctrine traditionally applies only to navigable waters and entrusts the government with the responsibility to preserve the land and resources for productive, recreatio ...

California Sea Urchin Commission v. Combs

Separation of powers at stake in battle over agency otter rule

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked Congress for permission in the 1980s to introduce sea otters into Southern California waters, Congress agreed but required protections for lawful fishing activity. In 2012, the Service declared that they would no longer honor the fishing industry protections. On behalf of sea urchin and abalone divers, ...

People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. Fish and Wildlife Service

Prairie dogs and property owners: Both need protection from massive federal overreach

For decades, the federal Endangered Species Act has simultaneously stifled responsible conservation of the Utah prairie dog, while barring property owners from using their own land as they wish. So PLF asked the United States Supreme Court to step in, to protect both the prairie dog and property rights of the people who share the same land. Represe ...

Otay Mesa Property, L.P. v. Department of the Interior

Fairy shrimp critical habitat designation violates the ESA

Three property owners in San Diego County own 57 acres that they planned to use for a new recycling center and landfill. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the property as critical habitat for the endangered Riverside fairy shrimp, the development plans were stymied. The owners challenged the designation because there’s no evi ...

Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Landowners can challenge EPA compliance orders in court

Chantell and Michael Sackett received a local permit to build a modest three-bedroom home on a half-acre lot in an existing, partially built-out residential subdivision in Priest Lake, Idaho. The home poses no threat to water quality but federal EPA regulators nonetheless declared their property to contain a wetland and demanded they stop all work ...

Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al.

Flocks of California gnatcatchers need no federal protection

The federal government has expanded its reach using the Endangered Species Act to cover spurious “subspecies.” The ESA does not define “subspecies” and the Fish and Wildlife Service has offered no definition of its own. Instead, it simply announces when it has determined a “subspecies” to exist and, relying on th ...

Donate