President's weekly report — September 12, 2014

September 12, 2014 | By ROB RIVETT

Environment — When is a wetland not federally controlled?

We filed this complaint this week in Universal Welding v. United States Army Corps of Engineers.  The Corps is asserting jurisdiction over some of Universal’s low-value wetlands in North Pole, Alaska, just outside of Fairbanks.  The problem is that under the Corps’ own regulations, wetlands that are only adjacent to other wetlands (here separated by a road) do not come within the Corps’ control.  As noted on our blog, we won a nearly identical case a few years ago dealing with some similar wetlands in Fairbanks, but the Corps seems not to have taken our victory to heart.

Environment — Endangered Species Act and Prairie Dogs

We argued a motion for summary judgment this week in People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service,Utah Prairie Dog in natural habitat of high desert dirt and grass our challenge to the federal government’s assertion of jurisdiction over the Utah Prairie Dog.  While the rodent, which is 40,000 strong, is wreaking havoc on everything from a cemetery to a small airport in Utah, it remains listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.  But because the critter is not used in interstate commerce, we think the federal government lacks constitutional authority to regulate it.  For more information and a video, see our blog here.

Medium Speed Rail Appeal — California’s Train to Who Knows Where

We filed this petition for review with the California Supreme Court seeking review of a Court of Appeal’s ruling upholding the sale of $8.6 billion in bonds for what was once California’s High Speed Rail project.  In this case, High Speed Rail Authority v. All Interested Persons, a trial court had previously struck down the sale, saying that the finance authority had made absolutely no effort to explain its process and whether the bonds complied with the law.  Moreover, there is serious doubt that the current rail plan bears much of a resemblance to what the voters approved a few years ago.  (It is currently “blended” with local tracks in some areas, apparently in an effort to curry political favor with pork.)  We’re representing a private school that may be severely impacted by the plan.

School Choice Reform — Defending Washington’s Charter Schools

In 2012, voters in Washington State made that state the 42nd in the nation to offer parents a meaningful choice in options for educating their children. In particular, parents of at-risk students are now entitled to send their children to charter schools.  Because that choice threatens the public school union monopoly, plaintiffs representing the interests of unions and school administrators are putting their own interests ahead of the children, and have sued.  In League of Women Voters v. State of Washington, they argue that schools must be “uniform” under the Washington Constitution, and a charter school, by the very fact that it offers an alternative to the union controlled schools, is not uniform. As noted in our blog, this week we filed this amicus brief supporting the interests of parents and their children to seek better educational opportunities than those offered by the status quo.  We are arguing that a requirement for uniformity is not a requirement for sameness and mediocrity.

Property Rights — Water Rights

In Light v. State Water Resources Control Board we filed this amicus letter to the California Supreme Court on behalf of PLF, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the California Cattlemen’s Association, asking the California Supreme Court to grant review on whether the State Water Resources Control Board can regulate riparian water rights, as well as appropriative rights established before 1914, despite prior court decisions that say it cannot.  Otherwise water users will be burdened by an ever-increasing regime of regulatory cutbacks.

Property Rights — Coastal Land Rights Project

We had an adverse decision from the Court of Appeal this week in Lynch v. California Coastal Commission.  That’s the case where we are challenging the Commission’s refusal to permit the two property owners their right to rebuild a stairway to the beach and their right to rebuild a storm-damaged seawall without a requirement that they come back in 20 years for a brand new permit.  There was a very good dissenting opinion, however, which we trust will make the California Supreme Court aware of the need for further review.  For more information see our blog post here.

Student Writing Competition

Check out this podcast on the history of our newly revived student writing competition.  We’re hoping this competition will get law students thinking and writing about essential legal issues that are critical to the preservation of our liberties.