Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Turtle Island Restoration Network v. Department of State

Feb 17: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, No. 10-17059. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN), a non-profit environmental organization, appeals from the district court's dismissal of its claim on res judicata grounds [i.e. once a matter is judicially decided, it is finally decided]. TIRN alleges that the U.S. Department of State failed to satisfy its consultation and environmental assessment obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), in conducting annual certifications of countries exempted from the general ban on shrimp imports.
    Section 609(b) of Public Law 101-162 prohibits the importation of shrimp harvested with technology that may adversely affect sea turtles, except from countries certified to employ a turtle protection program comparable to that of the United States. The Appeals Court said, "We must decide whether TIRN's current lawsuit for NEPA and ESA violations is precluded by its earlier lawsuits challenging the State Department's regulations implementing the section 609(b)(2) certification process."
    The Appeals Court concludes, "Because TIRN's current challenge to the State Department's section 609(b)(2) certification process arises from the same transactional nucleus of facts as its earlier litigation, res judicata bars its claims. Accordingly, we affirm the district court. Although TIRN forfeited its opportunity to challenge the State Department's non-compliance with NEPA and ESA obligations in section 609(b)(2) certifications, our decision doesn't preclude judicial review of this issue. Because the legal question of whether NEPA and ESA apply to section 609(b)(2) has yet to be litigated on the merits, another plaintiff -- not in privity with TIRN -- is still free to bring this challenge."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Wildlife, #CA9]
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