Portrero Hills Landfill v. County of Solano

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 09-13-2011
  • Case #: 10-15229
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Hawkins for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

Private interest groups bringing a suit concerning enforcement of a ballot measure does not implicate comity or federalism issues under the Younger doctrine.

A ballot initiative, Measure E, was enacted in Solano County in 1984, and it capped the amount of solid waste imported into Solano County at 95,000 tons. Initially the County complied with the initiative, but later the County counsel determined it was likely unconstitutional because it violated the dormant Commerce Clause. The Landfill where all the waste is dumped became one of the largest sites servicing the San Francisco and Bay areas. An expansion project and a final Environmental Impact Report were approved to increase the capacity of the landfill. A number of environmental groups opposed the expansion, and sought a mandamus action to enforce Measure E, and overturn the expansion approval. A group of intervenors, including solid waste and recycling businesses, sought to find Measure E as violating of the Commerce Clause and to block enforcement of the injunction, claiming that the federal courts should not intervene with the state’s judiciary to hear constitutional claims and enforce ballot measures. The Court held that a state’s interest in having the executive branch enforce these types of measures is sufficiently important under the Younger doctrine. Green v. City of Tucson, 255 F.3d 1086, 1093 (9th Cir. 2001). However, the Court also held that a private litigants interest in enforcing these measures does not involve comity or federalism under Younger, and abstention was unnecessary. The Intervenors also failed to show how federal court adjudication of this issue would interfere with the state’s ability to perform legislative or judicial functions. Additionally, the Court held that the individual groups seeking mandamus actions did not involve any uniquely state interests in protecting the legislative, judicial or executive functions, and the district court should not have excused its duty to adjudicate. VACATED and REMANDED.

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