June 4, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court misses the boat . . . again!

By M. Reed Hopper Senior Attorney

Some cases are ready made for Supreme Court review, like American Independence Mines v. Department of Agriculture.  That case presents the question of whether those who have an economic interest in a federal action have standing to sue and enforce the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).   The Ninth Circuit said “no,” but that decision conflicts with other circuits that interpret the law differently.  As we noted in a previous post, the problem lies in a court-made rule that plaintiffs must fall within the “zone of interests” the challenged statute or provision was designed to benefit or protect.  Ironically, the High Court itself is conflicted over how to apply the rule.  The impact of the rule is widespread and has been hotly debated for years.  In many cases it has the unfortunate effect of closing the courthouse doors on those most directly affected by federal action.  This is bizarre and should be remedied.  But yesterday the Supreme Court denied review in American Independence Mines which provided the Court a perfect opportunity to address the scope of the “zone of interests” test.  It’s hard to say why the Supreme Court would reject such a compelling case, but the issue will not go away.  PLF is currently pursing the issue in other cases that will eventually make their way to the Supreme Court.  Let’s hope they find a more favorable reception.

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