PLF wins landowners the right to challenge federal “wetlands” jurisdiction


SACRAMENTO, CA – April 10, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) – In a historic Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) victory for the rights of property owners — and for the principle of accountability in government — a federal appellate court today ruled that landowners have a right to judicial review when federal regulators label their land as “wetlands” subject to federal control.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in favor of three property owners represented by PLF:  The Hawkes Co., Inc., Pierce Investment Company, and LPF Properties.

These parties own property in New Maine Township, Marshall County, Minnesota, which was designated as “wetlands” over which the Army Corps of Engineers has regulatory authority.  The designation took the form of a “Jurisdictional Determination” by the Corps, holding that the property is subject to the federal Clean Water Act.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the Eighth Circuit agreed with PLF that property owners have the legal right to bring a court challenge to such a regulatory determination.

“This historic ruling is great news for everyone who values accountability in government and Americans’ access to justice,” said PLF Principal Attorney M. Reed Hopper.  “When Clean Water Act officials assert control over someone’s private property, they should be prepared to defend, in court, their claim that the property is, in fact, jurisdictional wetlands.  Their decisions should not be insulated from scrutiny and examination, as if the regulators were a law unto themselves.”

In litigating to hold Clean Water Act regulators accountable to the courts for their decisions about whether private property is subject to strict federal regulation, this case follows up on PLF’s landmark victory in Sackett v. EPA.  In that precedent-setting 2012 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that property owners may appeal directly to the judiciary from a federal wetlands “compliance order.”

The case decided today is Hawkes Co., et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  More information, including PLF’s briefs and an explanatory blog post, is available

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts across the country.  PLF represents all clients free of charge.

M. Reed Hopper
Principal Attorney
Pacific Legal Foundation

(360) 279-0937

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