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Stringfellow v. Concerned Neighbors in Action

Supreme Court of the United States

January 20, 1987, Argued ; March 9, 1987, Decided

No. 85-184

Opinion

 [*372]   [***396]   [**1180]  JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The question before us is whether a district court order granting permissive intervention but denying intervention as of right is immediately appealable.

This case is part of the ongoing litigation concerning the Stringfellow Acid Pits, an abandoned hazardous waste disposal site near Glen Avon, California. Petitioners are 28 individuals,  [****6]  companies, or entities who formerly owned or operated the Acid Pits, or who allegedly produced or transported the wastes that were dumped at the disposal site. In 1983 the United States and the State of California filed suit against petitioners, claiming that the Acid Pits created a substantial danger to the surrounding area. The Government plaintiffs sought injunctive relief that would require petitioners to abate the release of harmful substances from the site, and to take remedial steps to correct the unsafe conditions. Both the United States and California also requested reimbursement for the costs incurred in bringing about the cleanup.

Shortly after the complaint was filed, respondent Concerned Neighbors in Action (CNA), a nonprofit organization whose members live near the dumpsite, moved to intervene in the litigation. CNA claimed that it was entitled to intervene as a matter of right pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a), because it had a substantial interest in the suit that would not be represented adequately by the existing parties. 1 [****8]  CNA also asserted that the citizen suit provisions  [*373]  of various environmental statutes allowed intervention as [****7]  of right in these circumstances. 2 Alternatively, CNA claimed that it should be allowed to intervene by permission pursuant to Rule 24(b).

The  [***397]  District Court denied the request to intervene as of right, but granted CNA's application to become a permissive intervenor. The court concluded, however, that CNA's right to participate should be subject to three conditions. First, it held that CNA could not assert any claim for relief that had not already been requested by one of the original parties. The court found that "allowing applicants to assert their individualized damage and other claims would burden and expand an already complex litigation, and could jeopardize the possibility of settlement." App. to Pet. for Cert. A-19. Second, CNA could not intervene in the Government plaintiffs' claim for recovery of the clean-up costs.  [****9]  Finally,  [**1181]  in an effort to "minimize any delay and confusion involved in discovery," the District Court ruled that CNA could not file any motions or conduct its own discovery unless it first conferred with all the original parties, and then obtained permission to go forward from at least one of these litigants. Id., at A-20. The court emphasized, though, that CNA had the right to attend all depositions, to participate to the extent not duplicative of the original parties, and to receive copies of all discovery material produced by the other litigants.

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480 U.S. 370 *; 107 S. Ct. 1177 **; 94 L. Ed. 2d 389 ***; 1987 U.S. LEXIS 1062 ****; 55 U.S.L.W. 4299; 6 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1025; 25 ERC (BNA) 1670; 17 ELR 20559

STRINGFELLOW ET AL. v. CONCERNED NEIGHBORS IN ACTION ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  755 F.2d 1383, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

district court, intervene, intervenor, original party, restrictions, court of appeals, discovery, final judgment, intervening rights, injunctive, mandamus, parties, argues, orders, conditions, pretrial, collateral, interlocutory order, alternative means, immediate appeal, interlocutory, appeals, merits, join

Civil Procedure, Parties, Intervention, Intervention of Right, General Overview, Time Limitations, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Final Judgment Rule, Collateral Order Doctrine, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Adverse Determinations, Permissive Intervention, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Altering & Amending Judgments, Interlocutory Orders, Judicial Officers, Judges