Friday, December 12, 2008

Oregon Natural Desert Association v. US Forest Service

Dec 11: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 08-35205. Plaintiffs-Appellants, Oregon Natural Desert Association, and a number of other environmental organizations (collectively ONDA), sued Defendant-Appellee, the United States Forest Service (Forest Service), for allegedly failing to comply with § 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA, or Act) in its issuance of grazing permits on Forest Service lands. ONDA specifically argued that the outcome and reasoning of S.D. Warren Co. v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection, 547 U.S. 370 (2006) [See WIMS 5/15/06], are clearly irreconcilable with the Ninth Circuit's reasoning in Oregon Natural Desert Ass’n v. Dombeck, 172 F.3d 1092 (9th Cir. 1998), and that Dombeck is, therefore, no longer controlling law.

The Forest Service moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(c). The matter was referred to a magistrate judge, who made Findings and Recommendations suggesting that the district court grant the motion for judgment on the pleadings on the ground that ONDA’s claim was barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel [issue preclusion, or doctrine preventing a person from relitigating an issue]. The district court adopted the Findings and Recommendations and granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings. The appeal followed and the Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the district court.

However, the Appeals Court said, "Because we conclude that the principles of stare decisis [legal doctrine providing that courts should adhere to the legal principles established by courts deciding similar cases] control all of the plaintiffs in this case, we need not reach the issues of collateral estoppel and virtual representation. Whether or not the individual Plaintiffs-Appellants in this case were participants in the earlier trial, they are bound by Dombeck as a matter of law. Accordingly, the district court’s grant of the Forest Service’s motion for judgment on the pleadings as to all Plaintiffs-Appellants is affirmed."

Access the complete opinion (
click here). Access the complete S.D. Warren Co. opinion (click here).

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