August 15, 2017

Settlement reached in Duarte Nursery case

SACRAMENTO, CA;  August 15, 2017: “Duarte Nursery, its president John Duarte, and Pacific Legal Foundation and their co-counsel announce that Duarte Nursery has agreed to a settlement with the United States in the federal government’s nearly five-year enforcement action over Duarte’s routine action of plowing its property to plant wheat in late 2012,” said PLF Senior Attorney Tony Francois, who represents Duarte free of charge.

“Under the agreement, Duarte would admit no liability, pay the government $330,000 in a civil penalty, purchase $770,000 worth of vernal pool mitigation credits, and perform additional work on the site of the plowing.

“This has been a difficult decision for me, my family, and the entire company, and we have come to it reluctantly,” said John Duarte. “But given the risks posed by further trial on the government’s request for up to $45 million in penalties, and the catastrophic impact that any significant fraction of that would have on our business, our hundreds of employees, our customers and suppliers, and all the members of my family, this was the best action I could take to protect those for whom I am responsible.”

“John would have preferred to see this case through to trial and appealed the court’s liability ruling, which holds that plowing a field requires federal permission — despite the clear text of the Clean Water Act and regulations to the contrary,” said Francois. “John and his counsel remain concerned that legal liability for farming without federal permission undermines the clear protections that the Clean Water Act affords to farming and poses a significant ongoing threat to farmers across the nation.”

“From one end of the country to the other, Pacific Legal Foundation stands up for individual liberties and the rule of law by challenging regulators who abuse their power,” said PLF President and CEO Steven D. Anderson. “Our defense of John Duarte, his co-owners at Duarte Nursery, and their hundreds of employees demonstrates once again that all Americans have a stake in the fight against overreaching government.”

The court will hold a hearing in approximately 45 days to approve the settlement. In the meantime, the trial that was to begin today has been cancelled.

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About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization 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 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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