Jurisdictional determinations under the Clean Water Act, revisited
Federal administrative agencies should comply with their own regulations. Right? It doesn’t always happen that way.
Yesterday, on behalf of our client, Gallagher & Henry, a second-generation, family – owned developer, we filed a lawsuit challenging a determination made by the United States Army Corps of Engineers that Gallagher & Henry’s property in Tinley Park, Illinois, is a jurisdictional wetland under the federal Clean Water Act. The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that the property at issue is prior converted cropland, which is excluded from Clean Water Act jurisdiction by the Corps’ own regulations. That regulatory exclusion is of keen interest to farmers and developers nationwide.
The federal government has consistently taken the position that jurisdictional determinations are not reviewable in court because they do not affect the legal relationship between property owners and the government. The problem is that, once a jurisdictional determination is made, a property owner is forced to apply for a permit from the Corps, which could take years of effort at substantial cost, or forego developing the property, or simply proceed with the project without a permit, at the risk of substantial civil and criminal penalties. PLF successfully litigated the reviewability issue in the Hawkes case, where the Eighth Circuit held that jurisdictional determinations are judicially reviewable. But in another PLF case, the Fifth Circuit held in Kent that jurisdictional determinations are not reviewable. In an effort to resolve the split between the circuits, PLF filed a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, seeking review of the Kent decision. That petition is pending.
Undoubtedly, the government will argue here that the Corps’ jurisdictional determination is unreviewable. But this case was filed in a federal district court in the Seventh Circuit, which is not bound by either Hawkes or Kent. The reviewability of the Corps jurisdictional determination will be among the first battles in the case.
What to read next
Shed a (crocodile) tear for Luke Skywalker today, as Mark Hamill’s much ballyhooed Autograph Law is set to be undone and reformed by the same California officials who made the mistake to pass it in the first place. AB 228 has arrived at the Governor’s desk, and in all likelihood will be signed into law any day.
Our new flagship publication, Sword&Scales, offers 16 pages of news and information to bring you up close to the vital work of our legal team. Our ardent defense of the right to own and use private property takes center stage in the inaugural issue. It’s at the core of our mission in the nation’s courts.
On Thursday, in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, PLF filed this reply brief in support of its cert petition to the Supreme Court of the United States. In this case, we’re representing Minnesota voters in a First Amendment challenge to a ban on political apparel at polling places.
The Daily Journal published my column on California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, recently decided by the California Supreme Court. As the op-ed points out, the ruling undermines Proposition 218’s requirements that all new taxes at the local level need voter approval.
Minnesota bans political apparel at polling places across the State. The government interprets “political” broadly: the ban applies to shirts with classic American phrases such as “Liberty” or “Don’t tread on me,” as long as those phrases appear alongside a tea party logo — no matter how small.
Sunday marks the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States. Pacific Legal Foundation celebrates Constitution Day this year with a column about a Founding Father and signer of the Constitution who now stars in the Broadway hit musical, Hamilton. We also use the opportunity to remind our federal legislators about the importance of the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. The opinion piece will run in newspapers from coast to coast this weekend.