Docstoc

Rapanos v. United States Case Brief

Document Sample
Rapanos v. United States Case Brief Powered By Docstoc
					Rapanos v. United States 126 S.Ct. 2208 (2006)






 

   

Rapanos owned some wetlands that were isolated and 20 miles away from the nearest navigable waterway. In open defiance of the law, he filled the wetlands with sand in order to build a shopping mall without getting a permit. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) fined Rapanos for not getting a permit. o The Clean Water Act §301 prohibits damage to "navigable waters" without a permit (issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers, pursuant to §404). Rapanos was convicted in a criminal trial and was forced to pay millions of dollars in civil penalties. He appealed the civil penalties. o Rapanos argued that since the wetlands were not connected to a navigable waterway, they were not covered under the Clean Water Act and he could do whatever he wanted with his own land. o USACE argued that, based on the ruling in United States v. Riverside Bayview Homes, Inc. (474 U.S. 121 (1985)), any waters that USACE said were covered were covered. The Appellate Court affirmed. Rapanos appealed. At the same time, a developer named Carabell had sought a permit to build condominiums on 19 acres of wetlands, but the request was denied by the USACE. o Carabell sued, arguing that the Federal government did not have jurisdiction. The Trial Court found that the Federal government had jurisdiction. Carabell appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed. Carabell appealed. The US Supreme Court combined the two cases. The US Supreme Court overturned the Appellate Court decisions and ruled that the USACE did not have jurisdiction. o The US Supreme Court was sharply split. While they were able to come to a 5-4 decision about reversing the judgments against Rapanos and Carabell, they were unable to come to a majority decision on the details of

Project Wonderful - Your ad here, right now, for as low as $0







where the jurisdictional limits should be drawn. The plurality of Justices looked to the plain language of the Clean Water Act found that the term "navigable waters" in the Clean Water Act could be extended to waters which were connected to navigable waters, but not isolated bodies of water that were not directly connected.  "The only plausible interpretation of the phrase 'the waters of the United States' includes only those relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water 'forming geographic features' that are described in ordinary parlance as 'streams, oceans, rivers, and lakes."  The plurality looked to their decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (531 U.S. 159 (2001)) and recognized that if there were a significant nexus between the wetland and a navigable body of water, it could be covered under the Clean Water Act, but in these cases, the wetlands were well isolated.  A wetland that is adjacent to a navigable water, or connected by a continuous surface flow would constitute a significant nexus, in Scalia's opinion. In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy disagreed with the plurality on what exactly constitutes a significant nexus. o Kennedy felt that the USACE should be allowed to go back to the lower courts and introduce evidence that could establish that there was a significant nexus. In a concurring opinion, Justice Roberts suggested that the USACE go back and issued a regulation clarifying exactly how far they felt that §404 reached. If they did that, then the courts would have to give USACE deference. o Since there were no published regulation or guidelines, the courts did not have to defer to USACE's case by case analysis. In a dissent, it was suggested that the Courts go back to the deference they used in Riverside, which basically said that waters covered under the act include any waters that the USACE reasonably concludes may affect the water quality of adjacent lakes rivers and streams, even when the waters of those bodies are not directly connected to a navigable waterway.
o


				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Stats:
views:1019
posted:1/29/2008
language:English
pages:2