Damien M. Schiff

Senior Attorney Sacramento

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 in 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 the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to the Clean Water Act, Damien’s practice includes direct litigation and friend-of-the-court briefs in cases arising under the federal and California Endangered Species Acts, as well as other environmental laws.  He has appeared on a variety of television and radio programs, and has been quoted in The Economist, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications.

Damien 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, Damien 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, and a cat named Lily.  He is a card-carrying member of the American Philatelic Society.

Minnesota Assoc. Builders and Contractors v. Minneapolis Public School District

Bulldozing unfair, illegal union-rigged construction scheme

With 75 buildings and 35,000 students, there’s plenty of construction work in the Minneapolis School District. But many hardworking Minnesotans never get a shot at a school project. In 2004, the district adopted a project labor agreement, or PLA, that favors politically powerful unions over nonunion contractors. This type of agreement forces ...

Lent v. California Coastal Commission

Massive—and unconstitutional—beach access fines threaten family home

In 2016, the Lents received the California Coastal Commission’s first ever fine—$4.185 million—for blocking public access to the beach. The home sits 20 feet above the beach and, without stairs or a ramp, the public cannot safely get to the beach. The property originally included an outdoor stairway and a gate to block the large drop—bo ...

Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ranchers fight illegal critical habitat designation

In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated as critical habitat some 14,000 acres of land and 170 miles of streams in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico for the jumping mouse. The designation severely limits ranchers’ access to grazing land and watering spots and, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, adds $20 million in regul ...

Vaping Litigation

The Constitution going up in vapor

Electronic nicotine delivery systems—vaping devices and e-cigarettes—first hit U.S. stores in 2007. It didn’t take long for vaping to jump from zero to a $5 billion domestic industry, as entrepreneurs quickly recognized a market hungry for an alternative to traditional cigarettes. In 2016, just as the burgeoning vaping industry was gettin ...

Coastal Rights Coalition v. California Coastal Commission

California coastal homeowners at risk by Coastal Commission’s illegal seawall policy

When coastal property owners seek permits for new residential development, the California Coastal Commission requires them to agree never to build a seawall to protect the structure from storms and erosion. This policy was imposed by fiat, without public notice, hearings, and opportunity for public comment, as required by the California Administra ...

Town of Coos Bay, Oregon v. National Marine Fisheries Service

Endangered Species Act abuse forces federal zoning control on local communities

Federal bureaucrats are twisting environmental and emergency management law to control zoning across Oregon, including its treasured coastal regions. At issue is a National Marine Fisheries Service opinion that governs FEMA’s national flood insurance program. Under the rule, local communities wanting federal flood insurance must abstain from ...

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April 10, 2019

Property owners have the right to a fair hearing first

This article was originally published by The Daily Journal on April 10, 2019. It is coauthored by Paul Beard who is an environmental and land-use attorney who co-leads Alston & Bird's Environmental Appellate Litigation Team and its Coastal Land Use Team. Should government agencies have the power to issue multi-million-dollar fines against hom ...

March 13, 2019

The Hill: To protect endangered wildlife, government should make partners of landowners

This article was originally published in The Hill on March 11, 2019. Most Americans strongly support government efforts to protect endangered species. We all understand the value of ensuring that iconic animals such as the grizzly bear and bald eagle survive and thrive in the wild, both as matter of conservation and as our legacy ...

February 19, 2019

Supreme Court to decide whether Clean Water Act regulates groundwater

The scope of the Clean Water Act has been a contentious and controversial issue for decades. For most of that time, the focus has been surface waters — lakes, streams, ponds and marshes. But the fundamental question is, which waters are subject to federal regulation, and which should states regulate? That question is at the ...

February 13, 2019

California bureaucrats levied a $4+ million fine against these homeowners. Now they’re fighting for their rights.

When it comes to government bureaucrats abusing citizens' property rights and pushing the envelope on constitutional limits, the California Coastal Commission is in a class by itself. Our latest effort to defend a pair of Southern California homeowners against the commission's overly aggressive and heavy-handed tactics is a case study in government ...

January 29, 2019

Adverse decision in California gray wolf listing challenge

Yesterday we received an adverse decision from the San Diego Superior Court in California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Fish & Game Commission, our challenge to the Commission’s decision to list the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act. Our lawsuit raised three arguments against the listing, which the Depar ...

December 18, 2018

New brief: PLF challenges gray wolf ‘endangered’ listing in California

A single sighting of a wolf that had crossed over into California from Oregon—that's all it took for Golden State bureaucrats to declare the gray wolf as a protected species under the state's Endangered Species Act (ESA). That ill-fated decision has significant implications for farmers, ranchers and other property owners in California. Yesterday, ...

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