Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Supreme Court Denies Hearing Solutia Inc. v. McWane, Inc. Appeal

Oct 9: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Solutia Inc. in the case decided by the Eleventh Circuit in March of this year [See WIMS 3/7/12]. In the Appeals Court case Plaintiffs-Appellants Solutia, Inc. and Pharmacia Corporation (Solutia & Pharmacia) appealed the District Court's grant of summary judgment against their claims under § 107(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
    The appeal was a matter of first impression involving whether parties subject to a consent decree may file claims for cost recovery under § 107(a) of CERCLA, or whether their remedies are limited to filing claims for contribution under § 113(f) of CERCLA. The Appeals Court notes that, as the Magistrate Judge noted in his thorough ruling granting summary judgment, "[t]his case is complex, in terms of its underlying facts, its litigation history, and the legal issues it presents." The Appeals Court ruled, ". . .Solutia & Pharmacia limited their arguments to the content of the Partial Consent Decree, and the definition of the Anniston Lead Site contained therein. They never actually argued prior to the grant of summary judgment, as they do now, that they 'voluntarily incurred costs unrelated to the Consent Decree.' Nor did Solutia & Pharmacia cite the properties by name that they now urge should be exempt from summary judgment.
    Access the SupCt Order (click here, page 3). Access the SupCt docket  (click here). Access the complete 11th circuit opinion (click here). [#Remed, #CA11, #SupCt]
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Western Watershed Projects v. Ellis (DOI/BLM)

Oct 9: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 11-35464. Appealed from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. The Appeals Court explains that this appeal involves an attorneys' fee dispute that added a "rancorous coda" to long-running grazing permit litigation in Idaho that was "all ably overseen by the district court."
    The plaintiff, Western Watersheds Project (WWP), originally filed the action in 2004 challenging the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) renewal of grazing permits in the Jarbidge Resource Area (JRA), covering a large expanse of Southern Idaho. In 2005, the district court ruled in a published opinion that WWP's challenge had merit and that the BLM had violated Federal statutes by inadequately protecting habitat of threatened, endangered, or sensitive species.
    The parties in 2006 entered into what they thought was a settlement of the entire dispute, but in July of 2007 a massive fire changed the situation dramatically. The BLM then allowed grazing on unburned areas to continue, and after taking several months to regroup, began issuing new grazing authorizations. WWP successfully challenged the post-fire grazing decisions and authorizations as inadequately protecting wildlife habitat, but the district court denied WWP's claim for fees, and this appeal followed. The issue before the Appeals Court is whether the district court erred in denying plaintiff WWP fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
    WWP's position is that the district court considered only the reasonableness of the underlying agency decision to issue
grazing authorizations after the fire, and did not adequately consider the reasonableness of the litigation strategy defending
that decision. The Appeals Court said, "Our review of the record convinces us that the district court did consider both factors, and we affirm" the district court ruling.
    The Appeals Court explained further, "The district court's explanation addressed WWP's principal argument that the BLM was attempting to defend an interpretation of the RMP that the district court had rejected in its 2005 opinion. In the district court, WWP's attack on both the underlying agency decision and its litigation strategy had the same focus. WWP's argument did not separate the litigation strategy from the grazing decision. We therefore cannot fault the district court for not parsing WWP's argument in the way that WWP asks us to do in this appeal."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Land, #Agriculture, #CA9]
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