Issues and Cases

When regulators label property as “wetlands,” owners may seek judicial review

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., et al.


Contact: M. Reed Hopper 
 
Status: The U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari on December 11, 2015. Briefing on the merits completed. Oral argument was held on March 30, 2016. Awaiting decision.
 
Summary:
Through a “Jurisdictional Determination,” the Army Corps of Engineers designated property owned by The Hawkes Co., Inc., Pierce Investment Company, and LPF Properties, in Minnesota, as “wetlands” over which the Corps has regulatory authority.  On appeal, the threshold issue is whether property owners have the legal right to bring a court challenge to such a regulatory finding.


PLF represents the property owners on appeal, and argues that Jurisdictional Determinations — “wetlands” designations under the Clean Water Act — are final agency actions subject to judicial review.  In attempting to hold Clean Water Act regulators accountable to the courts for their decisions about whether property is wetlands or not, and where they have regulatory power, this case follows up on our victory in Sackett v. EPA.  In that landmark 2012 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that property owners may appeal directly to the judiciary from a federal wetlands “compliance order.”

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