Great Old Broads for Wilderness v. Kimbell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 03-04-2013
  • Case #: 11-16183
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judge Smith and Senior Circuit Judge Sack
  • Full Text Opinion

A plaintiff has adequately exhausted administrative remedies when claims made at the administrative appeals level are so similar to those brought at the federal level that the agency was put on notice.

The Great Old Broads for Wilderness challenged the United States Forest Service’s decision to approve the restoration of a flood-damaged road in northeast Nevada. Great Old Broads argued the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” on the grounds that it violated both the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as an executive order. The district court granted the Forest Service’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the Great Old Broads had not adequately exhausted administrative remedies and that the Forest Service’s decision was not “arbitrary and capricious.” The Ninth Circuit held that in order for a plaintiff to adequately exhaust all administrative remedies, the “claims raised at the administrative appeal level and in the federal complaint must be so similar that the district court can ascertain that the agency was on notice of, and had an opportunity to consider and decide, the same claims now raised in federal court.” The Court reversed the district court’s decision, holding that all three of the Great Old Broads’s claims were administratively exhausted because the plaintiffs’ letters arguing the violation to the Forest Service were so similar to the claims on appeal that the Forest Service was put on notice. Additionally, the Court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the Forest Service’s decision was not “arbitrary and capricious,” holding that the Forest Service’s interpretation of the statutes and executive order was reasonable and not “plainly erroneous” and was entitled to deference. REVERSED in part, and AFFIRMED in part.

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