The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review an endangered species decision in a California case handled by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court's decision, issued in mid-January, means that the appellate court opinion upholding the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services listing of four species of fairy shrimp that live in California as either endangered or threatened will stand.
The Building Industry Association of Northern California (BIA) filed the lawsuit in 1994. The builders argued that the listings should be overturned because the federal agency failed to make available to the public a study on which the listing decision was based. The BIA also claimed the decision was not based on the best available science and the agency misapplied its own policy on independent peer review. The BIA further argued that the listing violated the commerce clause because the fairy shrimp live in only one state and the federal government's regulation has nothing to do with interstate economics. (The Endangered Species Act is predicated on Congress's authority to regulate interstate commerce.)
The trial court and the appellate court both ruled that the Fish & Wildlife Service followed proper procedures. The BIA did not press the commerce clause claim at the trial court level, and the appellate panel dismissed it in a footnote.
Still, the commerce clause argument was central to the BIA's petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. Since 1995, the court has struck down a federal law against possessing a gun near a school and a law allowing a victim to sue a rapist in federal court. In those instances, the court ruled that the federal laws had nothing to do with interstate commerce. Property rights advocates hoped that the high court would apply the same reasoning to strike a major blow against the Endangered Species Act.
However, the court declined without comment to hear the case.
Fairy shrimp are small crustaceans that live in vernal pools — small indentations in the earth's surface that fill with water during the rainy season. Vernal pools are somewhat common in portions of the Central Valley and in San Diego County. Some scientists say that development and farming have wiped out most vernal pool complexes in the state, a factor that led to the endangered species listings.
The case is Bldg. Indus. Ass'n of Superior California v. Norton, No. 01-620. At the court of appeal it was No. 00-5143.
Although they cannot be false and misleading, ballot arguments need not be relevant, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled. The panel issued its opinion in a lawsuit challenging the title of, and ballot arguments for, a City of Huntington Beach measure on the March ballot that would impose a tax on a power plant.
An Orange County ballot initiative that sought to block the development of a civilian airport at the closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station has been thrown out by a state appellate court. The court ruled that Measure F from March 2000 interfered with essential governmental functions, crossed the line into administrative activities, and was vague.
The state Supreme Court will review an appellate court ruling that subdivision maps recorded prior to the first version of the Subdivision Map Act in 1893 do not create legal parcels. In January, all seven of the state's high court justices voted to review the decision in Gardner v. County of Sonoma (see CP&DR Legal Digest, November).
A city resolution restricting parking on certain residential streets to residents with parking permits was categorically exempt from environmental review, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled.
An exemption to the California Environmental Quality Act for construction of a sea wall below two houses has been upheld by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The court ruled that the potential collapse of a bluff could threaten public safety and qualified for an emergency exemption under CEQA.
In a case that touched on redevelopment law, the California Environmental Quality Act and general plan compatibility, an appellate court has upheld San Francisco's handling of a project on the site of the historic Emporium department store.
The City of Los Angeles was correct to treat as one project a builder's various proposals for 21 new houses on existing parcels on two streets, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled. The court rejected the builder's contention that the city could not demand an environmental impact report on the 21 houses, five of which have already been built.
Opponents of a proposed recycling center were too late in filing a lawsuit regarding a city's failure to prepare an environmental study on the city's sale of land to the recycling company, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
When a public agency acquires a property via eminent domain, only a trial court judge -- and not a jury -- can decide whether a business should receive compensation for loss of goodwill, a state appellate court has ruled.
The California Coastal Commission's decision to allow Malibu property owners who are building new houses to exchange existing public view corridors on their property for dedication of an off-site public access to the beach has been upheld by the Second District Court of Appeal.