President's weekly report — September 4, 2015

September 04, 2015 | By ROB RIVETT

Endangered Species Act:  Delist the Kangaroo Rat

The federal government’s intransigence when it comes to delisting recovering species reveals both the government’s disregard for the rule of law and the underlying real goal of so much environmental legislation: to restrict development and impede human endeavor.  Representing the Riverside County Farm Bureau and the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy, and Reliability (CESAR), PLF submitted a petition back in November asking the United States Fish & Wildlife Service to delist the Stephens’ kangaroo rat from protected status under the Endangered Species Act because new scientific studies show that the rat has the ability to disperse over a much wider variety of habitat than previously thought, meaning the threats to its existence were vastly overestimated.  The government ignored the petition, however, forcing PLF to sue in federal court to force a response.  Read the complaint and more information here.

First Amendment: Protecting Our Donors

California Attorney General Kamala Harris wants to troll through the donor lists of non-profit public interest foundations like PLF.  She claims this will allow her to “efficiently monitor” the legality of these groups.  As we explain on the blog, the United States Supreme Court rejected this sort of fishing back in the 1950s, when Alabama tried to force the NAACP to reveal the contact information of its members.  Nonetheless, Harris is demanding the donor information from the Center for Competitive Politics, a nonprofit dedicated to defending constitutional rights against overreaching government regulation—specifically, First Amendment rights.  Incredibly, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sanctioned Harris’s rule.  That’s why PLF, joined by our friends at the Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, the Reason Foundation, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Atlantic Legal Foundation, and the Individual Rights Foundation filed this brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the case.

First Amendment and Clean Water Act: Retaliatory Prosecution

PLF’s ongoing representation of Duarte Nursery and John Duarte, challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers heavy-handed demands under the Clean Water Act, has a new front of attack.  As if it weren’t bad enough that the Corps is going after Duarte for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act without so much as giving him a chance to respond to their claims—a violation of constitutional due process—the Corps is now doubling-down on its unconstitutional actions by ramping up its prosecution in retaliation for Duarte exercising his right to speak freely about the case in the national press.  PLF filed a new complaint in the case, adding Duarte’s First Amendment claims.

Free Enterprise: Tort Liability for Safe Products

Accomplishing little more than wealth distribution, the California Court of Appeal in Sherman v. Hennessy Industries decided that the manufacturer of an “arcing machine”—a specialized cutting machine which contains no asbestos whatsoever—is liable for the asbestos-related illness of a worker who used the machine to cut asbestos-containing brake linings.  The court reasoned that the manufacturer of this benign machine should nonetheless be liable because the company obtained an “indirect economic benefit” from the existence of the brake linings.  No court has ever gone so far and PLF filed an amicus letter brief supporting Hennessy Industries’ petition to the California Supreme Court to review the case.  Read more about the case here.