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Law School Case Brief

Sackett v. EPA - 566 U.S. 120, 132 S. Ct. 1367 (2012)


The Administrative Procedure Act's (APA) judicial review provision requires that a person seeking APA review of final agency action have no other adequate remedy in a court. 5 U.S.C.S. § 704. In Clean Water Act enforcement cases, judicial review ordinarily comes by way of a civil action brought by the Environmental Protection Agency under 33 U.S.C.S. § 1319.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a compliance order, which, inter alia, accused certain property owners of depositing fill materials on a residential lot they owned, charged the owners with engaging in the discharge of pollutants into a navigable waterway without a permit, in violation of § 301 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C.S. § 1311, and directed the owners to restore the site in accordance with an EPA-created restoration work plan. The EPA denied the owners' request for a hearing, and petitioner property owners filed an action against respondent EPA, claiming that the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of 5 U.S.C.S. § 706(2)(A), and violated their right to due process of law, when it issued the compliance order. The U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the judgment of which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari. 


Did the property owners have the right to go to court to challenge the EPA’s Order?




The Supreme Court found that the owners could bring a civil action under the Administrative Procedure Act to challenge the EPA's order. 5 U.S.C.S. § 704 allowed judicial review of final agency actions for which there was no other adequate remedy in a court, and the EPA's compliance order had all the hallmarks of APA finality. In addition, there was nothing in the Clean Water Act that prohibited the owners' suit.

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