Twenty-five “friends” of Drakes Bay Oyster Company have filed four significant amicus briefs in support of the farm’s efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear its case. The briefs make compelling arguments for why the Supreme Court should take the case.
At stake is whether the government, in making countless everyday decisions, can be taken to court when it abuses its power, misinterprets the law, or misrepresents science.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a federal court does not have jurisdiction to review a discretionary agency decision for abuse of discretion, a ruling that is at odds with the Tenth Circuit’s findings on the same issue. Drakes Bay Oyster Company petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on April 14, 2014 for a writ of certiorari to review that judgment.
Elder environmentalists and agriculturalists weigh in
Former California Assemblyman William T. Bagley and former Congressman Paul Norton “Pete” McCloskey (co-author of the Endangered Species Act and co-chair of the first Earth Day) are among the elder environmentalists supporting the oyster farm’s petition in a brief also joined by a number of chefs, agriculturalists, and agriculture associations. The brief argues the importance of aquaculture and agriculture in the San Francisco North Bay, and for the support and development of innovative, ecologically sound and sustainable agriculture practices consistent with the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA]. Here is the Cert Petition Amicus Brief from Bagley et al.
Rural communities dependent on fair federal permitting
In its amicus brief, the Pacific Legal Foundation and California Cattlemen’s Association point out that roughly half of the land in the western United States is federally owned, and that grazing is one of the largest uses of federal lands. Together the Ninth and Tenth Federal Circuit courts each govern about half of all federal grazing permits, yet the two circuits are not aligned on fundamental questions of law relating to renewal of grazing permits, including the application of NEPA, and judicial review under the Administration Procedure Act [APA]. The brief argues that the high court should take Drakes Bay’s case in order to resolve this issue, since “a very large number of rural communities are dependent on federally permitted grazing for employment, commerce, and tax revenue to support public services.” Here is the Amicus Brief from Pacific Legal Foundation and California Cattlemen’s Association.
Scientific misconduct undermines our democracy
Two preeminent scientists, Dr. Corey Goodman (elected member, National Academy of Sciences) and Dr. Paul Houser (former Scientific Integrity Officer, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior, and Professor, George Mason University), filed a brief to argue that the Supreme Court should take this case as an opportunity to make clear that courts have an important role in ensuring scientific integrity in government. When he came into office, President Obama made clear that “to undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.” Yet for Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and too many other cases, the government has falsified and abused science to further predetermined ideological agendas. The Ninth Circuit held that a federal court does not have jurisdiction to reject false science, whereas the Supreme Court has historically held that they do. This brief asks the Supreme Court to reaffirm their commitment to the integrity of science both in government decision-making and as presented to federal courts. Here is the Amicus Brief from Drs. Goodman & Houser.
Ninth Circuit decision endangers historic resources
The Monte Wolfe Foundation argues that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling hampers the protection of historic and cultural resources, writing: “the ruling of the Ninth Circuit, that no NEPA review is needed where agency action seeks to restore a pristine state of nature, appears unique to the Ninth Circuit. It means that historic resources on Ninth Circuit federal wildlands are endangered because they cannot depend on NEPA for protection. Absent other protection, they may be – indeed, given [the Ninth Circuit decision] Drakes Bay Oyster’s reading of the intent of NEPA, should be – summarily removed.” Here is the Amicus Brief from the Monte Wolfe Foundation.