Idaho couple appeals to U.S. Supreme Court in fight against EPA land grab
Washington, D.C.; February 24, 2011: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency blindsided Chantelle and Michael Sackett, of Priest Lake, ID, several years ago when it suddenly told them it considers their small parcel to be “wetlands,” and that the federal government – not the Sacketts – controls the property.
In their petition for certiorari to the high court, the Sacketts are represented by attorneys with donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation, the nation’s leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for property rights and a balanced approach to environmental regulations. Because of the support of PLF’s thousands of contributors nationwide, the foundation never charges for its legal services, so PLF attorneys represent the Sacketts pro bono.
The agency also told them they’d have to remove the gravel they’d put down in preparation for building a house, and restore the land to EPA’s liking – or they’d face thousands of dollars per day in fines!
Today, the Sacketts formally petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take their case and rule that they have the right to challenge the EPA’s power play in court.
“The issue in this case is simple, but critically important to all property owners, and everyone who values fair play and due process,” said PLF attorney Damien Schiff. “When bureaucrats try to impose their will on private property, shouldn’t the owners be permitted their day in court, to challenge the government’s claim of control?”
The Sacketts’ dream: to build a house in a residential neighborhood
The Sacketts’ parcel is in a residentially zoned area, surrounded by houses, and their dream was to build a house of their own. But in 2007, the EPA swooped in with a “compliance order” sent without any warning or hearings. The agency announced that the land was “wetlands” and under federal control.
Thank goodness PLF is helping us fight for this principle, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Sacketts deny that their property is wetlands and that the EPA has any authority over it. For instance, there is no standing water on the property or any continuously flowing water connection between their land and Priest Lake. They want to make this case directly to a court, seeking judicial review of EPA’s claim of jurisdiction over their property.
PLF attorney: feds are imposing “a $200,000 price tag on justice”
But the Sacketts are being denied their day in court. The Ninth Circuit has ruled that the Sacketts can’t get judicial review of the EPA’s assertion of power over them unless they first go through the long and expensive – and likely futile – process of formally applying for a federal wetlands permit. That process could take years and cost $200,000 or more – more than the value of the Sacketts’ property!
Damien M. Schiff
“The Sacketts are being hit with an unconscionable price tag for the right to challenge the feds’ power play,” said Damien Schiff. “Basic principles of due process say that the Sacketts deserve their day in court, to argue for their property rights. As we’re arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court, putting an exorbitant price tag on the pursuit of justice, and the defense of property rights, is flat-out unconstitutional.”
“We’re very grateful that PLF attorneys are defending our rights,” said Mike Sackett. “The government can’t get away with making unjust demands, with no judicial review. Thank goodness PLF is helping us fight for this principle, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates, pro bono, for limited government, property rights, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts across the country. A brief video about PLF’s history and mission, including comments by former U.S. Attorney General Edwin J. Meese III, may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnBSlRQwxKU.