Private Property

Sackett v. EPA

Brief Details

William R. Maurer
Managing Attorney of the Washington Office
Date Filed
Original Court
U.S. Supreme Court
Current Court
U.S. Supreme Court
In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Sackett v. EPA. The Sacketts are owners of a half-acre residential lot near Priest Lake, Idaho, which they bought to build a single family home. After they were granted a permit by local authorities and began construction, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an “administrative compliance order” requiring the Sacketts to stop building, restore the lot to its previous condition, and apply for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a “wetland.” The Sacketts do not believe their property is a wetland or that the EPA has jurisdiction over their property.  They do not want to be forced to apply for an Army Corps permit, which can take up to two years to process and can cost more than a quarter of a million dollars.  The EPA order, however, threatens them with fines of up to $37,500 per day, and criminal charges for willful violation.  Both a federal trial court and the U.S Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled that the Sacketts may not challenge the EPA’s authority to issue the compliance order in court until after the ruinous fines have been enforced against them, or until a permit has been denied. The Institute for Justice (IJ) filed a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court urging the Court to allow property owners to challenge—immediately and in federal court—orders issued by government agencies that prevent the use of private property and threaten severe financial and even criminal penalties.