Press Release

PLF files opening brief at Supreme Court in David v. Goliath case of Sackett v. EPA

Sacramento, CA; September 26, 2011: The U.S. Supreme Court today received Pacific Legal Foundation’s opening brief on the merits in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a high-profile property rights case on the Court’s docket for 2011-2012 term that opens next Monday, October 3.

This David v. Goliath case pits a working couple in Idaho against a federal bureaucracy that has blocked them from building a home on their own property in a residential neighborhood, and has threatened them with ruinous fines for allegedly filling in “wetlands” — while denying them a meaningful opportunity for administrative or judicial review of the bureaucracy’s claim of jurisdiction over them.

Property owners Mike and Chantell Sackett, of Priest Lake in the Idaho panhandle, are represented, free of charge, by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, the leading watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulations.

The Supreme Court granted the Sacketts’ petition for certiorari in late June. Briefs at the Supreme Court are deemed filed when mailed, and PLF attorneys filed the opening brief on the merits this past Friday, September 23.

“Our brief addresses two related issues,” said PLF Senior Staff Attorney Damien Schiff, who will argue the Sacketts’ case before the High Court. “First, did Congress intend to preclude landowners like the Sacketts from suing EPA in court immediately after receiving an EPA compliance order issued under the Clean Water Act? If so, does that preclusion violate the Due Process Clause of the Constitution?

“Now we wait for the government’s response, which is due just before Thanksgiving.”

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported PLF ( is the leading watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, individual rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts nationwide.

Case Attorneys

Anthony L. Francois

Senior Attorney

Tony Francois is an attorney in PLF’s Sacramento office, and has litigated cases around the country defending Americans’ property rights from land use and environmental restrictions. He is a member … ›

View profile

Damien M. Schiff

Senior Attorney

Currently a Senior Attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, Damien joined PLF in 2005.  His practice has focused on federal and state environmental and land-use issues.  Damien was counsel of record … ›

View profile

Case Commentary

See all posts

PLF's Sackett and Hawkes victories come to Michigan

Marquette County, perched on the edge of Lake Superior, is one of the most populated counties in Michigan’s upper peninsula In order to decrease traffic and to increase safety through the small towns in this area, the Marquette County Road Commission planned to build a road, County Road 595, through some undeveloped land The County hoped to create a short-cut for heavy-duty trucks, most of which are used to transport ore from the local mine to its processing facility Despite winning approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (“MDEQ”), the US Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) said “no way” to the plans The

Read more

By M. Reed Hopper

How Sackett saved Andy Johnson

Pacific Legal Foundation has a long history in the US Supreme Court  It has won seven cases in a row, with two more pending  Most of these cases relate to protecting private property rights from overreaching government  Abuses under the Clean Water Act were the focus of our 2006 Rapanos case and our 2012 Sackett case  In Sackett, the High Court unanimously held a landowner could go to court to challenge an EPA compliance order (more…)

Read more

By Damien M. Schiff

A response to a Sackett critique

In Sackett’s Limit,  Nathaniel Johnson argues that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v EPA, which holds that EPA compliance orders issued under the Clean Water Act are subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act, bodes ill for the Nation’s waters in particular and vigorous environmental protection generally  Mr Johnson explains that allowing blanket judicial review will hamstring EPA’s enforcement Consequently, Mr Johnson urges the lower federal courts to limit Sackett to jurisdictional challenges to compliance orders  There are several problems with Mr Johnson’s premise, as well as his prescription


Read more