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Rapanos v. United States: Background, Blog, and Briefs
Washington,DC; May 17, 2006: As detailed on the new Rapanos Blog,, the United States Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in Pacific Legal Foundation's landmark case Rapanos v. United States, the most important property rights case before the Court this year. On behalf of John Rapanos, PLF is asking the High Court to rein in federal officials who for years have pushed their authority to regulate wetlands on private property far beyond what Congress intended and our Constitution allows.
Pacific Legal Foundation is representing John Rapanos, a 70-year-old grandfather of 6 who has stood up to federal regulators’ 18-year crusade against him--all because he moved sand on his own property without a federal permit.
Federal regulators want control over John Rapanos’s property--even though it is 20 miles from any waterway that could trigger federal oversight. The law limits federal jurisdiction to "navigable waterways" used for shipping and commerce and adjacent wetlands; inland wetlands are protected by state and local rules. But rather than follow the law, government officials asked a judge to put Mr. Rapanos in prison for 5 years.
The trial judge refused, expressing disgust that the government gives drug dealers better treatment. But federal regulators appealed, forcing John Rapanos and his family into a 12-year court battle. Last year, Mr. Rapanos was vindicated in his criminal case when the trial judge refused--for the third time--to put him in jail, calling Mr. Rapanos "the kind of person that the Constitution was passed to protect."
Now, PLF is defending John Rapanos in his civil case before the U.S. Supreme Court, against potentially millions of dollars in government fines and mitigation fees.
The federal government argues, under the banner of protecting wetlands, that it can regulate virtually any water in the nation--despite the clear limits of the law. But if the Court reins in the federal government, inland waters will continue to be subject to vigorous protections imposed by states.
When one citizen is abused by government, we all lose. That's why a broad coalition of people have joined PLF in standing with John Rapanos and asking the Supreme Court to settle, once and for all, where federal jurisdiction ends and state jurisdiction begins.
Groups representing hundreds of government agencies that provide clean water for tens of millions of Americans are supporting Mr. Rapanos. Supporters include the largest urban water district in the nation, the largest coalition of public water agencies in the nation, and a coalition of water agencies that provide clean water to more than 30 million citizens in six states in the Western United States.
With this case, the High Court can clearly limit the federal government's power and leave regulation of inland wetlands to states as the law demands. By doing so, the Court can strongly affirm the constitutionally protected property rights of all Americans.
Court Briefs & Resources
Amici Curiae Briefs in Support of John Rapanos
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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