Press Release

PLF wins landowners the right to challenge federal “wetlands” jurisdiction

SACRAMENTO, CA;  April 10, 2015: In a historic Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) victory for the rights of property owners — and for the principle of accountability in government — a federal appellate court today ruled that landowners have a right to judicial review when federal regulators label their land as “wetlands” subject to federal control.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in favor of three property owners represented by PLF:  The Hawkes Co., Inc., Pierce Investment Company, and LPF Properties.

These parties own property in New Maine Township, Marshall County, Minnesota, which was designated as “wetlands” over which the Army Corps of Engineers has regulatory authority.  The designation took the form of a “Jurisdictional Determination” by the Corps, holding that the property is subject to the federal Clean Water Act.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the Eighth Circuit agreed with PLF that property owners have the legal right to bring a court challenge to such a regulatory determination.

“This historic ruling is great news for everyone who values accountability in government and Americans’ access to justice,” said PLF Principal Attorney M. Reed Hopper.  “When Clean Water Act officials assert control over someone’s private property, they should be prepared to defend, in court, their claim that the property is, in fact, jurisdictional wetlands.  Their decisions should not be insulated from scrutiny and examination, as if the regulators were a law unto themselves.”

In litigating to hold Clean Water Act regulators accountable to the courts for their decisions about whether private property is subject to strict federal regulation, this case follows up on PLF’s landmark victory in Sackett v. EPA.  In that precedent-setting 2012 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that property owners may appeal directly to the judiciary from a federal wetlands “compliance order.”

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts across the country.  PLF represents all clients free of charge.

Case Attorneys

M. Reed Hopper

Senior Attorney

Reed Hopper was a Senior Attorney in PLF’s Environmental Law Practice Group. He oversaw the Foundation’s Endangered Species Act Program that is designed to ensure that species protections are balanced … ›

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Mark Miller

Senior Attorney

Mark Miller, a PLF Senior Attorney, manages PLF’s Florida office in Palm Beach Gardens. He defends your constitutional rights in state and federal court. CBS This Morning, Fox & Friends, … ›

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Case Commentary

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PLF Unanimously Wins 8th Straight Supreme Court Decision

PLF won a precedent-setting victory for property owners’ rights when the US Supreme Court ruled in our favor in the PLF case of United States Corps of Engineers v Hawkes The groundbreaking decision accepted PLF’s arguments that landowners have a right to seek judicial review when their property is designated as wetlands subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act

PLF Director of Communications Jim Burling hosts a round table discussion with PLF case attorneys Reed Hopper and Mark Miller, client Kevin Pierce, and Gray Plant Mooty Principal Attorney Nancy Burke discussing the implications of the case for property owners around the country

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Hawkes U.S. Supreme Court Victory Reaction

PLF Director of Litigation Jim Burling provides instant reaction and analysis after PLF’s 8th straight US Supreme Court victory in US Army Corps of Engineers v Hawkes

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By M. Reed Hopper

Landowners nationwide win their day in court!

For more than 40 years, millions of landowners nationwide have had no meaningful way to challenge wrongful application of the Clean Water Act to their land  That changed today when a unanimous US Supreme Court ruled landowners have the right to challenge federal claims of jurisdiction in a court of law

The Clean Water Act authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency to regulate “navigable waters,” which these agencies interpret to mean virtually all waters in the United States and much of the land Such “waters” are subject to complete federal control They cannot be disturbed without a federal permit This puts landowners at the

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