Sackett v. EPA

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: March 21, 2012
  • Case #: 10-1062
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Scalia, J. for a unanimous Court. Ginsburg, J., and Alito, J., each filed a concurring opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

An individual may file suit under the Administrative Procedure Act to challenge a compliance order issued by the EPA under the Clean Water Act because the compliance order is a final agency action and the Clean Water Act does not preclude judicial review.

After Petitioners filled in half-an-acre of their property with dirt and rock in order to build a house, the EPA issued a compliance order against them for discharging pollutants into wetlands in violation of the Clean Water Act. The order required Petitioners to remove the fill material and restore the property to its original condition. Petitioners sought and were denied a hearing with the EPA, and subsequently filed for injunctive and declaratory relief in district court claiming that the compliance order was arbitrary and capricious and violated Petitioners' due process rights. The district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, concluding that pre-enforcement judicial review of EPA-issued compliance orders is not permitted under the Clean Water Act and that this preclusion did not violate Petitioners’ due process rights.

The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the Clean Water Act does not expressly preclude judicial review of the compliance order, and the overall statutory intent does not overcome the APA's presumption favoring judicial review of final agency actions. The Court also held that the compliance order was a final agency action because it determines rights or obligations, creates legal obligation and consequences, and marks the consummation of the EPA's decision making process.

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