Monday, December 8, 2008

Fitzgerald v. Harris

Dec 5: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Case No. 08-1306. The case raises the issue of whether a Maine statute governing the management of a state administered river, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway (AWW) is preempted by certain sections of a Federal statute, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA). Plaintiffs Charles FitzGerald and Kenneth Cline (collectively FitzGerald) are avid canoeists who sued Willard R.Harris, Director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, seeking a declaration that the Maine statute is preempted by Federal law, as well as injunctive relief against the enforcement of the Maine statute.

According to the Appeals Court, the Plaintiffs essential complaint is that the provisions of Maine's statute maintaining certain bridges and public access points to the AWW destroy the "wild" character of the river. The Appeals Court said, "There have been, to our knowledge, no prior federal courts of appeals decisions squarely involving claims of preemption of state statutes by the WSRA, which was enacted in 1968." The district court granted Harris's motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), adopting a magistrate judge's recommended decision holding that the Maine statute is not preempted by federal law. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court dismissal.

In part, the Appeals Court said, "Because both the NPS [National Park Service] and the ACE [Army Corps of Engineers] approved Maine's plans for the Henderson Brook Bridge, it cannot be said that the Maine statute authorizing the permanent bridges over the AWW is preempted by federal agency action."

Access the complete opinion (click here).

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