Ninth Circuit oral argument in sea otter case

May 09, 2016 | By JONATHAN WOOD

Last week, I argued PLF’s sea otter case before the Ninth Circuit. The issue before the Court is an essential one, that could have impacts far beyond this case: Can federal agencies escape judicial scrutiny for illegal actions if they have violated the law before? That seems silly, I know.

You may be familiar with the term “statute of limitations”–which refers to the limited amount of time after an event during which a legal challenge can be brought. In the sea otter case, brought on behalf of a variety of fishing organizations, we challenged a federal rule that terminated statutorily-mandated protections for Southern California’s fishermen and their fishery. We brought the case well within the 6 year statute of limitations for challenging the rule. However, the government contended that we were too late because, two decades earlier, it issued a regulation saying that it might someday take this illegal act. Since the statute of limitations for challenging that regulation had run, the government argued, we couldn’t challenge its more recent illegal action.

Here’s the video of the argument:

It’s always a little foolhardy to predict an outcome based on an oral argument. So I’ll just say I’m confident that the Court understood the immense importance of the issue and, hopefully, will rule in our favor.