Drakes Bay Oyster Company had such a strong case against the National Park Service that their fight for an injunction (to allow them to stay in business while conducting the lawsuit) went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 30, 2014, the Court declined the case. The Lunnys subsequently settled.
Four strong friend-of-the-court briefs were filed in support of the oyster farm’s case. Read about them here.
Why the Ninth Circuit was wrong
In reviewing the denial of the farm’s permit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a federal court does not have jurisdiction to determine whether that decision is arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.
In his decision denying a new permit for the oyster farm, Secretary Salazar did abuse his discretion by misinterpreting the law he relied on, and by making false statements. He wrote that issuing the permit would “violate” the law, even though Congress had passed a law in 2009 authorizing him to issue the permit “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” He thought the “intent of Congress” in the Point Reyes Wilderness Act was for the oyster farm to shut down, when in fact, as the dissenting judge (Judge Paul Watford) concluded, “all indications are that Congress viewed the oyster farm as a beneficial, pre-existing use whose continuation was fully compatible with wilderness status.”
If allowed to stand, the Ninth Circuit’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent, denying citizens the right to fight arbitrary or abusive government decisions. Tony Francois of the Pacific Legal Foundation provides a good legal analysis in this overview of the case published at PLF’s Liberty Blog.
A brief history of the legal case
On January 27, the Ninth Circuit granted our motion for a stay of the mandate, allowing the oyster farm to remain in business as our legal team prepares the case for the U.S. Supreme Court. Read the DBOC press release: Court Grants Stay. The Point Reyes Light covered the news here. The Pacific Legal Foundation’s commented here.
The Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals denied the oyster farm’s request for an injunction in September 2013, although the ruling was a 2-1 split decision, and the dissenting Judge wrote a very compelling dissent. Read the opinion here. A news story by the Point Reyes Light can be found here. The New York Times covered the story here. The Pacific Legal Foundation covered the news here.
On October 22, 2013, an impressive group of supporters filed an Amici Curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in support of Drakes Bay Oyster’s petition for rehearing. The brief was joined by former State Assemblyman William T. Bagley and former Congressman “Pete” McCloskey along with Phyllis Faber, Mark Dowie, the Tomales Bay Association and many others. Here is the DBOC press release on Teichman et al. brief 10.22.13. Read the news article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here.
On October 25, 2013, an Amici brief was filed by two oyster workers, Jorge Mata–a 28-year oyster farm employee–and Isela (Rosa) Meza, the oyster farm’s staff marine biologist. Here is the DBOC press release, oyster workers brief 10.28.13.
On October 28, 2013, six more impressive Amicus briefs were filed, including a brief by independent scientist Dr. Corey Goodman and a brief by local historian Dr. Laura Watt. Here is the DBOC press release, two briefs filed 10.25.13.
All eight briefs are linked at Ninth Circuit page about the DBOC case, found here.
All eight briefs were profiled in a weekly series in the West Marin Citizen, a Point Reyes community newspaper. Read the series here.
In January 2014, the court denied DBOC’s request for en banc rehearing, which was filed on October 18, 2013. “The majority decision, if allowed to stand, would set some alarming precedents,” said Peter Prows, a member of the Drakes Bay legal team. Here is the DBOC press release, petition for rehearing 10.18.13. The petition itself is here.