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Cal. ESA & Unsettled Admin Law

By Brian Cardile | Mar. 3, 2017

Appellate Practice

Mar. 3, 2017

Cal. ESA & Unsettled Admin Law

Tony François (Pacific Legal Foundation) discusses Monday's state high court ruling that clarified procedural elements of the California Endangered Species Act, settling an area of administrative law Francois described in an amicus brief as 'in disarray' after a convoluted intermediate court decision.


This week, our show addresses a California Supreme Court ruling that issued Monday, in the case of Central Coast Forest Association v. Fish and Game Commission, which clarifies certain procedural elements of California's Endangered Species Act. The decision culminates more than a decade of litigation over petitioners' challenge to the inclusion of a certain population of salmon within the protections of that state statute. But, notably, the court's ruling does not reach the merits of the petitioners' challenge, it merely holds that the parties involved in the case are, indeed, able to bring their challenge, and in the manner they brought it.

Tony Francois, a senior attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, will join us to discuss the case's underlying facts, legal intricacies, and most salient impacts. Mr. Francois authored an amicus brief in support of the petitioners, in which he claimed that the intermediate court's ruling in this matter threw state administrative law, in this context, into disarray. In that intermediate court decision, a divided panel held that, specifically because of the type of judicial review allowed for under the pertinent California Endangered Species Act provision - which is administrative mandamus - the original decision to list the salmon population within the act's protections should be regarded as a quasi-judicial one. Such a designation, Francois explains, gives the original decision gives it a somewhat preclusive effect, immunizing it from certain challenges (like the one brought here) and even, Francois explains, from review and amendment by the very administrative agency, here the Fish and Game Commission, that made the decision in the first place.

In his brief, Mr. Francois explained why such an interpretation is legally incorrect and, in policy terms, problematic, as it could raise due process concerns, and unpredictably impact other similar areas of California law where administrative mandamus is the form of judicial review prescribed. In an unanimous decision authored by Justice Chin, the state high court agreed.

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Brian Cardile

Rulings Editor, Podcast Host, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reporter

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