Drakes Bay Oyster Co. v. Jewell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 01-14-2014
  • Case #: 13-15227
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judge Watford and District Judge Marbley
  • Full Text Opinion

Although a federal court lacks jurisdiction to review a decision fully committed to an agency's discretion, it has jurisdictional authority to review the decision for violations of constitutional, statutory, regulatory, or other legal mandates or restrictions.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company ("Drakes Bay") challenged the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction, alleging that the Secretary of the Interior violated the authorization of § 124 of the Department of the Interior Appropriations Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 USC § 4321, and other federal regulations when the Secretary declined to renew Drakes Bay's permit for commercial oyster farming. The Ninth Circuit held that, even where the result of a decision is in the agency's ultimate discretion, a federal court has jurisdictional authority to review the decision for violations of "constitutional, statutory, regulatory, or other legal mandates or restrictions." Ness Inv. Corp. v. US Dep't of Agr., Forest Serv. Because Congress had fully entrusted the decision to issue an extension to the Secretary's discretion without imposing any mandatory considerations, the panel held that it would not interfere with the Secretary's informed judgment. The panel also agreed with the district court's rationale that Drakes Bay was unlikely to show that the Secretary's decision was an abuse of discretion or in violation of any law, and that neither public interest nor the balance of equities weighed in favor of granting a preliminary injunction. AFFIRMED. (Amended Opinion).

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