February 2, 2012

The Sacketts and Magna Charta

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Sometimes lost in the minutiae and arcana of environmental and administrative law is the fact that, ultimately, we’re arguing about whether someone’s property can be taken from them, or devalued, or made entirely unusable, because of government or administrative fiat.  Kudos to Carla Garrison of The Washington Times for reminding everyone that, notwithstanding the legalese, the case of Sackett v. EPA is ultimately about protecting the rights of people to the sweat of their brow, i.e., vindicating one’s right to due process, a right traceable to Magna Charta and beyond.  If government can’t do that, then there’s something wrong with government.

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Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency

Chantell and Michael Sackett received a local permit to build a modest three-bedroom home on a half-acre lot in an existing, partially built-out residential subdivision in Priest Lake, Idaho. The home poses no threat to water quality but federal EPA regulators nonetheless declared their property to contain a wetland and demanded they stop all work and restore the lot to its natural condition or pay fines of up to $75,000 per day. When they sued to challenge this order, EPA asserted they had no right to judicial review. The district court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, and tossed their lawsuit out of court. The United States Supreme Court unanimously reversed, ruling that failure to allow the lawsuit violated the Sacketts’ constitutional due process rights. They are now litigating their claims in federal district court in Idaho.

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