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The Reach of Agency Authority: Sackett v. EPAOn March 21, 2012, the unanimous Supreme Court handed down its decision in Sackett v. EPA, a case involving landowners who graded a lot in a residential development to build a home. They were issued an administrative compliance order under the Clean Water Act by the EPA, stating that the lot was a wetland, and requiring them to restore the lot to its original condition or risk daily fines. The Court held that the landowners had the right the challenge the compliance order in court even though the EPA argued that it was not a final agency action and therefore not subject to review. In a strongly worded concurrence, Justice Alito added: “the draconian penalties imposed for the sort of violations alleged in this case still leaves most property owners with little practical alternative but to dance to the EPA's tune.” What are the implications of the decision? Does the Court’s language indicate anything about the balance of power between the federal government’s administrative agencies and the people? What, if anything, is the significance of the Court’s unanimity? Our experts discuss these and other issues on this previously recorded conference call.


  • Prof. Richard Frank, California Environmental Law and Policy Center, UC Davis School of Law
  • Mr. Damien Schiff, Counsel for the Petitioners, Pacific Legal Foundation
  • Moderator: Mr. Paul Zimmerman, Deputy Director of International Affairs, The Federalist Society

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