Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is one of the most active and effective public interest legal organizations in filings before the Supreme Court of the United States. PLF has had an unprecedented seven wins in its last seven direct appearances before the High Court for its clients, including two in the last two years.
The following cases illustrate PLF’s caseload, both direct and amicus cases before the High Court:
Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Issue: Are the USDA’s raisin market regulations, which require raisin growers to either divert a portion of their crop from the open market to a USDA reserve or face monetary assessments and fines, an unconstitutional taking?
Status: PLF filed an amicus brief in support of the Hornes, Fresno area raisin growers who refused to turn over a portion of their crop. The Supreme Court granted Horne's petition for writ of certiorari on January 16, 2015. PLF has filed an amicus brief and oral argument is scheduled for April 22, 2015.
Kentner v. City of Sanibel
Issue: The City of Sanibel, Florida, enacted an ordinance that prohibits new construction of docks and accessory piers within an area fronting San Carlos Bay. The petioners — owners of waterfront property — challenged the ordinance, claiming that the outright ban on new docks violates substantive due process. The Eleventh Circuit ruled against David and Susan Kentner.
Status: PLF attorneys directly represent the Kentners and several other property owners in challenging the ordinance as a violation of their property rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court denied the Kentners' petition for writ of certiorari on January 12, 2015
Liberty Coins, LLC, et al. v. David Goodman, et al.
Issue: Liberty Coins, a precious metal dealer, argues that the First Amendment protects its right to advertise and solicit for customers, and that a state may not forbid such advertisements and solicitations because the lawfully operating dealer has not complied with nonmandatory onerous licensing requirements.
Status: PLF attorneys directly represent the petitioner in claiming that advertisement of the otherwise lawful activity of purchasing precious metals is protected speech under the First Amendment, and a licensing requirement that restricts such advertising is a content-based restriction on speech subject to strict scrutiny. The Supreme Court denied the Kentners' petition for writ of certiorari on January 12, 2015.
North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC
Issue: Should a board, consisting entirely of practicing dentists, enjoy the complete immunity from prosecution under antitrust laws? PLF’s amicus brief will argue that a regulatory entity that is made up of active members of the industry who have direct conflict of interest and who are not supervised by the state cannot enjoy complete immunity. The Federal Trade Commission initiated antitrust proceedings against the Board of Dental Examiners when it began taking action against unlicensed persons offering teeth-whitening services.
Status: The U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari on May 3, 2014. PLF's amicus brief on the merits was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on August 6, 2014, in support of Federal Trade Commission. Oral argument was held on October 14, 2014 and the U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Federal Trade Comission in a 6-3 decision on February 25, 2015. The decision rejects the North Carolina board's argument that it enjoyed immunity from the Federal Trade Commission filing charges.
Spokeo v. Robbins
Issue: Standing to sue for damages requires real injury. Spokeo, Inc., runs a website that collects and publishes consumer “credit estimates.” Thomas Robins, an unemployed man, sued Spokeo in federal court for willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, alleging that Spokeo published false information. The trial court held that Spokeo’s statutory violations did not cause Robins anything other than speculative harm, and that he, therefore, lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution which requires that there be a “case or controversy.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, however, holding that it would assume that any plaintiff who alleged a willful statutory violation had suffered an injury caused by that violation. As amicus in support of Spokeo’s petition for certiorari, PLF argues that standing to sue for damages requires real injury.
Status: PLF attorneys filed an amicus brief on June 2, 2014. On October 6th, the Court asked the Solicitor General's office to file a brief.
Stewart & Jasper Orchards v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Issue: Representing several California farmers, PLF attorneys are challenging the biological opinion (BiOp) by federal agencies used to restrict water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to protect the Delta smelt, a small fish listed under the Endangered Species Act. In 2012, PLF previously sought Supreme Court review of the case on a Commerce Clause challenge because smelt are in intrastate species, but the High Court denied cert. With a recent adverse ruling at the Ninth Circuit on the biological opinion, it sets up reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s TVA v. Hill decision, relied on by the Ninth Circuit to uphold the smelt BiOp. In TVA v. Hill, the court held that the protection of every endangered species is the highest priority of the federal government, regardless of the cost. The result has been a heavy-handed, top-down bureaucracy that frustrates human interests and species conservation.
Status: On July 23, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied rehearing before the entire court, leaving an adverse ruling from March in place. PLF attorneys filed a petition for certiorari on September 30, 2014. The petition was denied on January 12, 2015.
Texas Department of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.
Issue: The Texas Department of Housing was sued over its allocation of federal tax credits to developers of affordable housing projects. The Department was sued under the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) because it approved more tax credits for projects that would be located in minority neighborhoods than non-minority neighborhoods. The lawsuit alleges that, although the Department followed state and federal law, it created a disparate impact on minorities by providing more tax credits in minority neighborhoods.
Status: PLF attorneys filed an amicus brief on June 16, 2014, arguing that disparate impact claims are not cognizable under the FHA. Oral argument was held January 21, 2015 and is awaiting decision.
Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency
Issue: Here, the Supreme Court took up six challenges to one of the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations — this one applying to the regulation of millions of “stationary sources” such as apartment houses, malls, hotels, as well as power plants and factories. At issue here was whether EPA had properly established standards for carbon dioxide before applying them nationwide.
Status: PLF attorneys filed PLF's amicus brief on December 13, 2013, and the Court issued a mixed decision on June 23, 2014. In a nutshell, the Court held that the regulations could not apply to facilities that are not already regulated under the Clean Air Act. Thus, the Court threw out the application of the new regulations to apartments, office buildings, malls and the like, but kept them in place for power plants and large factories. It is estimated the decision saved Americans $147 billion in new permitting costs.
Yates v. United States
Issue: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Florida commercial fisherman John Yates to determine if the federal government lawfully charged him with violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act when a member of his fishing crew allegedly threw three undersized fish overboard after being cited at sea by a state fish and wildlife officer for having 72 undersized fish in his catch. PLF argues that it was an abuse of the government’s power to charge Yates with violating a federal financial crimes and record-keeping law, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Status: PLF's amicus brief on the merits was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on July 7, 2014. Oral argument was held November 5, 2014 and the U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of Captain John Yates in a 5-4 decision on February 25, 2015.