From the desk of the President: PLF’s weekly litigation roundup

June 15, 2012 | By ROB RIVETT

It’s been a busy week here at PLF! Here’s a quick highlight of this week’s developments:

Property Rights – California Coastal Commission

We had this unpublished victory this week in Bay Island Club v. California Coastal Commission.  Members of the Bay Island Club own homes on a small island off Newport Beach.  A  1927 deed and 1928 quiet title judgment gives the club the exclusive right to build and maintain a private bridge to the island.  When the club sought permission to make needed repairs to the bridge, the Coastal Commission agreed – but only on the condition that the bridge be thrown open to 24/7 public access.  The club sued, and PLF filed a friend of the court brief.  As explained in our blog, the Court of Appeal struck down the condition, holding that the Commission had no right to impose it.

Property Rights – California Coastal Commission

A trial court ruled against our clients this week in SDS Family Trust v. California Coastal Commission.  This is the case where the Coastal Commission is insisting that three sisters dedicate a hiking trail to the public in exchange for permission to remodel their home.  The court held that the exaction was put in place previously (although never accepted we have pointed out) and it cannot be challenged now.  Visit our website for links to the briefs and a video.  An appeal is being considered.

Property Rights – Washington State

This week, the 9th Cir. issued an adverse decision in Samson v. City of Bainbridge Island.  The case involves Bainbridge Island’s “rolling moratorium” on shoreline development.  Shoreline property owners were prohibited from applying for permits to build docks as a result of a moratorium the city put into place and repeatedly renewed while it updated its shoreline master program.  Even though the Washington Supreme Court found the moratorium to be illegal, the City next adopted an ordinance banning all docks.  Landowners then went to federal court.  While the 9th Circuit agreed that the moratorium was illegal,  the new ban does not rise to a violation of the federal civil rights law known as Section 1983.

Environment – Endangered Species Act

Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle signEarlier this week we settled our latest valley elderberry longhorn beetle litigation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Under the settlement, we will dismiss our complaint and the Service will agree to issue a final, 12-month finding on whether delisting is warranted by Sept. 28, 2012.  Our original delisting petition was filed in Sept. 2010.

Environment – Endangered Species Act

In breaking news, according to in Billings, Montana, environmental groups will not seek Supreme Court review of an appellate decision that upheld the delisting of the gray wolves in the Rocky Mountains by Congress.  For more information, read this blog post.

Environment – Endangered Species Act

In a case to watch, PLF noticed that the Fish & Wildlife Service has listed critical habitat for the Dusky Gopher Frog land that has not been inhabited by the frog in over 50 years and is today totally unsuitable as habitat.  This is a breathtaking expansion of the concept of critical habitat.  Affected landowners are not amused.  Stay tuned.

Individual Rights – Equality Under the Law

In the latest twist to the saga of the firefighters’ exam, the Supreme Court denied cert in New Haven v. Briscoe.  You may recall the Supreme Court previously ruled in Ricci v. DeStefano,  that the City could not abandon the use of its written exam simply because it did not lead to the promotion of enough minority firefighters.  After the City did what the Supreme Court told it to do, a black firefighter sued, alleging that the exam had a disparate impact upon black firefighters.  After the Second Circuit allowed the claim to proceed, the City petitioned the Supreme Court for cert, and PLF supported with an amicus brief as described on our website.  New Haven will now have to defend itself in trial court.