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.

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.

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Property Rights

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 economic development—purportedly to protect endangered species. PLF has stepped in on behalf of Coos Bay, a town that won’t stand for this blatant abuse of the law.

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Procedural Guarantees

California Cattlemen’s Association v. California Fish and Game Commission

Wandering lone wolf in California triggers “endangered” listing

Based on the sighting of a lone non-native gray wolf in California, the state Fish and Game Commission listed the gray wolf species under the California Endangered Species Act, effective January 1, 2017. On behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and their members, PLF sued to invalidate this illegal listing, which protects a non-native species at the expense of native species, ignores the growing wolf populations outside California, and upends a multi-year collaborative process among government, environmental, and ranching interests to balance wolf protection with livestock protection. 

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Property Rights

Cherk Family Trust v. County of Marin, California

Marin County punishes elderly property owners with unconstitutional fees

When Dart and Esther Cherk needed to supplement their retirement income, they decided to split a 3-acre vacant lot in Marin County that had been in the family for six decades in order to sell both halves. As a condition of the lot split, however, the county demanded that they pay $40,000 as an “affordable housing” fee.

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By Damien M. Schiff

New lawsuit challenging Endangered Species Act overreach

This morning, we filed a complaint in federal district court in D.C. challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s 2016 “biological opinion” governing FEMA’s implementation of the national flood insurance program … ›

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By Damien M. Schiff

Who knew that permafrost was “navigable water”?

Yesterday, we received an adverse decision in Tin Cup LLC v US Army Corps of Engineers In this case, we represent a small, family-run Alaska pipe and steel fabrication firm in its challenge to the Corps’ assertion of Clean Water Act jurisdiction over some 200 hundred acres of permafrost on the company’s Fairbanks property We argued that the Corps has no such authority because (a) the 1993 Energy and Water Appropriation Act requires the Corps to use its 1987 Wetlands Delineation Manual until the agency adopts a new final manual, (b) the Corps has never adopted a manual to replace the 1987 Manual, and (c) permafrost

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By Damien M. Schiff

Adverse decision in Alaska wetlands case

This morning, the Ninth Circuit upheld the Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Act jurisdiction over the Fairbanks, Alaska, property of our client, Universal Welding. The case, Universal Welding & Fabrication Co. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, addressed a rarely invoked exception to the agency’s Clean Water Act jurisdiction over wetlands. The Corps’ regulations provide that the agency can regulate all wetlands adjacent to other jurisdictional waters, except wetlands that are adjacent to other jurisdictional wetlands. In our case, Universal Welding’s property is bordered by a county road, on the other side of which is a large wetland that extends for about a mile-and-a-half to Drainage Channel C, a tributary of the Chena Slough and Chena River.

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By Damien M. Schiff

Are there federal reserved rights to groundwater?

The Coachella Valley, a sere and torrid land (photo by Tim Shell)

That is the question being asked of the United States Supreme Court in two cert petitions filed last month, Desert Water Authority & Coachella Valley Water District v Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Succinctly, the doctrine of federal reserved water rights creates a presumption that when the federal government withdraws land from the public domain (for, say, an Indian reservation or a national forest), the government also impliedly reserves the right to sufficient water to fulfill the purpose of the land withdrawal Sounds reasonable enough,

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By Damien M. Schiff

Notice of anticipated gnatcatcher lawsuit submitted

This week, PLF submitted a notice of intent to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service over

California gnatcatcher (USFWS)

the agency’s denial last year of our petition to delist the coastal California gnatcatcher from the Endangered Species Act The petition sought the gnatcatcher’s delisting on the basis of a 2013 nuclear DNA study, which undermines the gnatcatcher’s “subspecies” classification and concludes that the bird is not meaningfully distinct from the millions of gnatcatchers dwelling in Baja California The notice letter, submitted on behalf of a coalition of home builder, sound science, and property rights advocates, challenges the

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By Damien M. Schiff

Talking Murr in Napa

Friday I had the honor of participating in the panel discussion Property Rights, Inverse Condemnation & Government Land Use Regulation, during the 36th Real Property Law Section Retreat for the California State Bar My remarks focused on Murr v Wisconsin and its importance to the “relevant parcel” analysis and regulatory takings law generally Many thanks to the panel’s moderator Stephen Cassidy (of Powlan Cassidy Law LLP) and to the State Bar for the opportunity

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