Washington, D.C.; January 13, 2017:  The Supreme Court today agreed to determine the proper venue for challenging the Obama Administration’s new WOTUS, or “Waters of the United States,” rule that threatens millions of property owners with unjustified federal oversight by vastly expanding the reach of the Clean Water Act in violation of federal law.

In the case that the High Court accepted today — National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Defense — the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals adopted a restrictive approach to judicial relief, allowing only federal courts of appeals to hear WOTUS challenges.  This would prohibit federal trial courts around the country from hearing lawsuits from aggrieved landowners and other members of the regulated public; instead, such challenges would effectively be concentrated in the first appellate court to consider a challenge.

The National Association of Manufacturers appealed this jurisdictional ruling to the Supreme Court, and Pacific Legal Foundation joined in the appeal as a direct litigant, on behalf of a number of landowners, farmers, and ranchers throughout the country.  A determination of the proper venue is an important question because it could affect how and where plaintiffs may challenge questionable rulemaking under the Clean Water Act in future cases, and perhaps other laws as well.

Besides its participation in this jurisdictional litigation, PLF is also currently challenging the WOTUS rule on the merits in the Sixth Circuit.

“The Supreme Court’s announcement is encouraging news for millions of landowners nationwide who have been uncertain where to file suits challenging federal regulations that define the scope of the Clean Water Act,” said PLF Principal Attorney M. Reed Hopper, who wrote PLF’s brief asking the court to hear the case.  “The Sixth Circuit read the Clean Water Act far too narrowly when it limited jurisdiction over WOTUS challenges to federal appellate courts. We expect the Supreme Court to overturn the Sixth Circuit decision.”


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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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