June 15, 2011
EPA "sacks" couple's rights; will Supreme Court take their case?
Mike and Chantell Sackett, of Priest Lake, Idaho, had their property rights "sacked" by the Environmental Protection Agency -- and we should soon know whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear their lawsuit, in which they are represented by attorneys with PLF.
The court is scheduled to consider the Sacketts' petition on Thursday, June 23, and announce whether it will take their case, on June 27.
A lot rides on this--not just for the Sacketts, but for all property owners, nationwide. Can the EPA take over someone's property--by declaring it federally controlled "wetlands"--without the owner having a meaningful right to challenge the agency in court?
PLF Senior Staff Attorney Damien Schiff explains how the Sacketts are fighting for everyone's property rights, everyone's right to his or her day in court - and for the principle that government agencies should not be above the law:
The Sacketts can't build a house because EPA has taken their land
The Sacketts own a small parcel in a residential area of Priest Lake.
They wanted to build a house to live in, as their neighbors have done.
They got the necessary local permits and approvals, and started laying gravel for the foundation.
But then, suddenly, without hearings or warnings, EPA swooped in and told them to cease and desist. EPA bureaucrats claimed that the Sacketts' small parcel is a federally controlled "wetland." Not only can the Sacketts not build a house on their property, they were ordered to return the land to EPA's liking - or face potentially
hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines!
The Sacketts want to challenge the EPA's "wetlands" claim in court. As a New York Times report showed, their property isn't next to the lake. It's in a residentially zoned area, with houses on both sides. There's no standing water or continuous water link to any navigable water.
EPA and Ninth Circuit deny the Sacketts their day in court
But EPA has said the Sacketts can't immediately appeal its "wetlands" designation - and the Ninth Circuit agreed. Instead, the Sacketts would first have to apply - probably fruitlessly - for a wetlands development permit, and be denied. That process would be long and expensive - costing more than the value of their land