Shell Offshore v. Greenpeace

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Admiralty
  • Date Filed: 03-12-2013
  • Case #: 12-35332
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Tashima for the Court; Chief Judge Kozinski; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Circuit Judge M.D. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

A preliminary injunction to prevent an organization from engaging in a “direct action” campaign of illegal activities against another entity during a specified yearly period may be considered ripe, even though the order expired if it was capable of repetition, yet evading review; additionally, the district court had proper jurisdiction on a dispute arising out of drilling in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf.

Shell Offshore holds oil and gas leases in the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”) off the coast of Alaska. Greenpeace is involved in a “direct action” campaign of illegal activities against Shell. Shell obtained a preliminary injunction against Greenpeace to bar Greenpeace from “coming within specified distances of named Shell vessels” during the 2012 drilling season. Drilling seasons are from July to October every year and the injunction expired on October 31, 2012. Greenpeace challenged the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction. The Ninth Circuit held that the Shell has standing because it faces actual harm and the case is ripe because “the nature of the dispute warrants prompt adjudication.” Additionally, the issue is not moot, even though the preliminary injunction expired before oral arguments, because the issue is “capable of repetition, yet evading review” since Greenpeace can be reasonably expected to continue its campaign against Shell during the next drilling season. Additionally, the panel held that the district court has admiralty jurisdiction to “exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the entire constitutional case” because the “common nucleus of operative facts underlying Shell’s claim for injunctive relief do not change when its vessels traverse an invisible line separating U.S. territorial waters from the waters of the U.S.” Furthermore, the panel held that Greenpeace USA was the correct entity to sue because its executive director took credit for certain activities committed against Shell and because stopping Shell is one of the “overall priority strategies of Greenpeace worldwide, as well as of Greenpeace USA.” Finally, the district court correctly balanced the equities of the two parties and found that Shell would likely succeed on the merits of the case, that irreparable harm would occur, and that the injunction is in the public interest. AFFIRMED.

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