Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: May 31, 2016
  • Case #: 15–290
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, THOMAS, BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined. KAGAN, J., filed a concurring opinion. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
  • Full Text Opinion

"Approved jurisdictional determinations,” issued by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, are final agency actions that are judicially reviewable under the APA.

In February 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers issued an “approved jurisdictional determination” (JD) that found that Respondent’s wetlands were “navigable waters” under the Clean Water Act, thereby imposing the possibility of civil and criminal penalties on Respondents. Respondents exhausted all available administrative remedies and eventually sought review of the JD in federal court under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The district court dismissed the case after holding that the JD was not a “final agency action" and therefore, the court did not have jurisdiction to review the decision. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and the Army Corps of Engineers appealed. On review, the Supreme Court held that the JD was a final agency action under the APA because the JD satisfied both prongs of Bennet. The court reasoned that the JD satisfied the first prong of Bennet because a the JD was issued after extensive fact-finding by the Corps and thus marked the consummation of the Corps decision making process on that issue. The court found that the JD satisfied the second prong of Bennet because legal consequences flowed from the Corps’ determination, because it broadened the potential liability the Respondents faced for discharging pollutants without a permit. The Court further reasoned that the Corps' JD constituted a final agency decision because Respondents would have no adequate alternatives to APA review and that if Respondents were to violate the Corps' decision and then dispute the enforcement proceedings, as argued by the Army Corps of Engineers, Respondents would risk incurring serious civil and criminal penalties. AFFIRMED.

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