Damien M. Schiff

Senior Attorney Sacramento

Damien Schiff is a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. He leads its environmental practice group, a unique initiative that draws broadly from PLF’s expertise and success in property rights and separation of powers litigation. Over the years, Damien has represented hundreds of landowners and property rights advocates to defend their liberties against heavy-handed and unwarranted environmental and land-use regulation. His litigation experience includes Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a groundbreaking decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of landowners to challenge Clean Water Act compliance orders issued by EPA, and Contoski v. Norton, PLF’s successful effort to force the federal government to make good on its promise to delist the bald eagle from the Endangered Species Act. 

Besides litigation, Damien has written academic articles on a variety of subjects, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, greenhouse gas torts, the duty to rescue, and international water law. He has appeared on a variety of television and radio programs and has been quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harper’s Magazine, and The Economist, among other publications. 

He obtained his law degree magna cum laude from the University of San Diego School of Law, and his undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Georgetown University. While at USD, he was a research assistant for Professor Bernard Siegan, a leading constitutional theorist and advocate for property rights and economic liberty. Immediately prior to joining PLF, Damien clerked for Judge (and former PLF attorney) Victor Wolski of the United States Court of Federal Claims. Damien credits the mentoring and examples of Professor Siegan and Judge Wolski for his decision to pursue a career in liberty-based public interest litigation. 

Damien lives in Sacramento with his wife, two young sons, four chickens, and a cat named Princess. In his off hours he enjoys stamp collecting, Gregorian chant, and martinis—preferably at the same time. 

cedar_point-Nursery Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid

Supreme Court affirms property rights for California fruit growers

Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company are California growers that produce fruit for millions of Americans. Collectively, they employ around 3,000 Californians. In 2015, the United Farm Workers (UFW) viewed the workers as ripe for the picking and sent union organizers to storm the workplaces during harvest time to encourage them to unionize ...

Iten v. County of Los Angeles

Small commercial landlord fights Los Angeles County eviction ban

Howard Iten is a retired auto mechanic who greatly depends on rental income from his one commercial property in Lawndale, California. His current tenant, however, is an auto repair franchisee who has refused to pay much of his rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though his business has been fully open the entire time. He owes Howard thousands o ...

Christensen v. California Judicial Council

Fighting for property rights against California Judicial Council’s eviction ban

Eviction is a critical tool for landlords to manage their property by removing tenants who refuse to pay rent or create nuisances and safety hazards. The process allows landlords to remove tenants who deliberately withhold rent or damage property, so that they can aid tenants experiencing hardship and offer housing to good renters—a particularl ...

Burke v. Raimondo, et al.

Governments’ misguided battle threatens California fishermen and their way of life.

Swordfish is a very popular seafood and one of the most abundant types of fish on the West Coast. It is also a significant source of income and way of life for many California families. But federal legal changes threatened to wipe out longtime family-owned businesses, as well as the entire domestic swordfish supply. The new rule supposedly aimed to ...

Abad, et al. v. Bonham, et al.

Government’s misguided battle threatens California fishermen and their way of life

Swordfish is a very popular seafood and one of the most abundant types of fish on the West Coast. It is also a primary source of income and way of life for many California families. But a recently enacted state statute threatens to wipe out longtime businesses, as well as the entire domestic swordfish supply. To preserve an industry that’s fe ...

United States v. LaPant

Bureaucrats can’t rewrite the law just because they don’t like it

Jack LaPant thought that he had properly navigated all the necessary regulations under the federal Clean Water Act when he plowed his northern California farmland in 2011 to grow wheat. Multiple agencies said he did not need a permit; but in 2016, government bureaucrats sued Jack for not obtaining a permit, even though the Clean Water Act doesnR ...

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September 27, 2021

The Hill: Supreme Court should revisit its 2006 navigable waters decision

Nearly 15 years ago, the efforts of Chantell and Mike Sackett to build their family home in a residential neighborhood of Priest Lake, Idaho, were put on indefinite hold. That is because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanded, on pain of immense monetary penalties, that the Sacketts first obtain a time-consuming and costly Clean Water ...

July 07, 2021

Yo-yo environmental regulations aren’t good for anyone

Recently, the Biden administration announced plans to cancel various regulatory reforms the Department of Interior had implemented under President Trump to modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Upon reading the news, the phrase, "Here we go again" comes to mind. With every change in presidential administrations, it now seems, we just have to ...

March 19, 2021

Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid is an agriculture property rights case with implications beyond the farm

On March 22, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments in a case that will either strengthen or erode Americans' property rights threatened by (oftentimes partisan) politics. In Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, the High Court will decide whether the government may give permission to select private groups to violate other people's ...

March 15, 2021

Daily Journal: High court should take opportunity to restore the right to exclude

A fundamental aspect of private property is that the owner can choose whom to let onto the property and whom to exclude as a trespasser. Next Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case concerning the intersection of this right with a longstanding California agricultural labor regulation. In 1975, the California Legislature enacted the ...

December 08, 2020

Daily Journal: High court should require agencies to be transparent about decision-making

In a letter written late in his life to Kentucky legislator William Barry, James Madison warned that a "popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both." In the context of the sprawling and often unaccountable modern administrative state these words ...

December 07, 2020

If you care about marine life, you should care about California fishermen

Anyone lucky enough to sail off the coast of California or take a sightseeing boat out until the land disappears into a canvas of blue will tell you about the beauty of the ocean. Our oceans—especially off the California coast—contain some of the most beautiful sights and amazing marine life you can imagine. Not surprisingly, ...