U. S. Supreme Court rules in favor of property owners over the Feds

Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) won a precedent-setting victory for property owners’ rights today when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in our favor in the PLF case of United States Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes.  The groundbreaking decision accepted PLF’s arguments that landowners have a right to seek judicial review when their property is designated as wetlands subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.


“Today’s ruling marks a long-awaited victory for individual liberty, property rights, and the rule of law,” said PLF Principal Attorney M. Reed Hopper, who successfully argued the case in front of the justices.  “For more than 40 years, millions of landowners nationwide have had no meaningful way to challenge wrongful application of the federal Clean Water Act to their land.  They have been put at the mercy of the government because land covered by the Act is subject to complete federal control.  But all that changed today.  The Supreme Court ruled that wetlands ‘jurisdictional determinations’ can be immediately challenged in court.  Everyone who values property rights and access to justice should welcome this historic victory.”

View a photo gallery of PLF’s Hawkes case.
View PLF’s case video.

PLF’s clients are family-owned and run businesses — Hawkes Co., providing peat for golf courses and other sports turf applications; and Pierce Investment and LPF Properties, which own some peat land.  They have been prevented from using property in Marshall County, Minnesota, because the Corps issued a jurisdictional determination categorizing it as federally controlled wetlands.  PLF represents them free of charge.

“This victory guarantees the rights of millions of property owners nationwide,” said Hopper.  “As we argued to the court — and as the court agreed today — when landowners are confronted with federal claims of jurisdiction over their property, they must have their right to their day in court.  So today’s ruling is a triumph for property rights, for simple fairness, and for the rule of law.”

“This decision is an opportunity for my family and our ability to keep moving ahead as wetland dependent small business owners and job-providers,” said Kevin Pierce, of Hawkes Co.  “We are now guaranteed the right to appeal to the courts against the Corps’ jurisdictional wetlands’ decision, that doesn’t follow environmental policy or law, which harms our wetland dependent business.  Today’s precedent-setting ruling also helps landowners across the country, because it says all property owners deserve their day in court if agency decrees put them in peril.  I want to thank Pacific Legal Foundation for helping me win this victory for my family, and for all landowners, large and small, to have access to the courts when their rights are at risk.” 

The case is United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., Inc.  More information, including a PLF video, photos, blog post, PLF’s briefs, and a podcast, may be found at: www.pacificlegal.org.

About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is the leading legal watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, free enterprise, and a balanced approach to environmental regulations, in courts across the country.  PLF represents all clients free of charge.


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Bruce Boyer
Bruce Boyer
4 years ago

SOAR is theft. These cases are awesome. it reestablishes that Due Process is Your Right, that whatever they do is challengable. The journey on the road to restoration of property rights is not over but we are farther along it.

William "Bill" Hicks
William "Bill" Hicks
4 years ago

Maybe the PLF would be an organization that might question some of the ways that County Supervisors use SOAR or SOAR like legislation.