Samson v. City of Bainbridge Island

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 06-15-2012
  • Case #: 10-35352
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judge Murguia; District Judge Gwin
  • Full Text Opinion

A City Council’s rolling moratorium on shoreline development, enacted without a public hearing, does not violate a citizen’s substantive due process rights when the city has legitimate interest in protecting wildlife and preserving the shoreline, and when the actions do not amount of egregious conduct. The moratorium does not violate procedural due process if done as a lawful legislative act.

The Samson’s, who are shoreline property owners in Bainbridge, WA, appeal an adverse summary judgment ruling on their claims of substantive and procedural due process. Washington revised its Shoreline Management Act requiring local governments to comply with new regulations within one year of their passage. The City of Bainbridge began the process by adopting an ordinance imposing a moratorium on shoreline development of new docks and piers. The ordinance was passed without a public hearing and was extended several times before the City Council permanently banned new dock construction in Blakely Harbor. The state courts struck down the rolling moratorium but upheld the permanent ban. The Ninth Circuit held that Bainbridge did not violate the Samson’s substantive due process rights because the moratorium did not impinge on any fundamental right. The Court reasoned that the ordinance was not “clearly arbitrary [or] unreasonable, [with] no substantial relation to public health, safety, morals or general welfare.” Additionally, the Court noted that Bainbridge had legitimate interests in protecting wildlife and preserving the shoreline and that none of the actions taken by the City Council were “egregious official conduct.” The Ninth Circuit also held that Bainbridge did not violate the Samson’s procedural due rights because the moratoria were lawful legislative acts, and “when the legislative body performs its responsibilities in the normal manner prescribed by law,” due process is satisfied. AFFIRMED.

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