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Building on Success

CAC's predecessor organization, Community Rights Counsel, represented state and local government clients in high-profile cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and federal and state appellate courts around the country. The cases below are Community Rights Counsel's biggest victories. We believe our arguments had a particular impact in these cases either because our briefs were cited by Supreme Court Justices, or because we made unique arguments that reappeared in the Court's decision, or statements by other attorneys in the case or objective third parties indicated that our arguments were important. Though it is difficult to discern exactly how much any particular brief or argument influences the Justices, particularly in cases in which many parties file briefs, we think that, by focusing on arguments rooted in text and history, we had an important influence on the trajectory of Supreme Court case law.

You can view a complete list of CRC's legal briefs here.

Massachusetts v. EPA: On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Massachusetts, holding that the EPA must reconsider whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under Section 202 of the federal Clean Air Act. The ruling represents a tremendous victory in one of the most important environmental cases ever decided by the Supreme Court on the preeminent environmental challenge of our time.

Rapanos v. United States: In Rapanos v. U.S., five Supreme Court Justices signaled that they are ready to listen to the states on questions of federalism. The case concerned the reach of the federal Clean Water Act, and the federal role in protecting our lakes, rivers, and streams. In brief after brief, developers, corporate polluters, and property rights extremists told the Court that it should radically curtail the reach of the Clean Water Act in order to protect the interests of states. On behalf of the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators, CRC explained to the Court and the media that the states themselves actually supported strong federal protection for wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

Susette Kelo v. City of New London: On June 23, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that New London's "carefully considered" decision to use eminent domain to promote economic development "unquestionably serves a public purpose" and thus satisfies the public-use requirement set forth in the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Gonzales v. Raich: On June 6, 2005, the Supreme Court held that Congress can constitutionally regulate the intrastate cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana for personal medicinal use because Congress could reasonably conclude that this activity substantially affects interstate drug markets. The case upholds a broad reading of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause.

Lingle v. Chevron: Lingle represents a dramatic return by the Supreme Court to Takings Clause first principles.  In a clear departure from the direction the Court was heading in cases like Nollan, Lucas and Dolan, the Court eliminated an entire test for takings liability in Lingle and declared that, from then on, the touchstone for takings liability would be “functional equivalence” to an actual appropriation.  This is a fair test that is consistent with the text and history of the Takings Clause. 

Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington: In a 5-4 ruling the Court saved IOLTA programs and the resources they provide for legal services for the indigent.  Dramatically, Justice O’Connor, who had provided the fifth vote for Washington Legal Foundation in Phillips, switched sides and voted to uphold IOLTA in Brown.  The Court’s opinion, like CRC’s brief, started from the premise that a taking had occurred, and examined the conditions the Constitution places upon takings.  “The Fifth Amendment does not proscribe the taking of property; it proscribes taking without just compensation.” 538 U.S. at 236, citation omitted.  The majority concludes, “Because compensation is measured by the owner's pecuniary loss--which is zero [in the instant case]--there has been no violation of the Just Compensation Clause of the Fifth Amendment in this case.” Id. at 241. 

Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency: The Supreme Court, on April 22, 2002, agreed with CRC's position and upheld a building moratoria put in place to protect Lake Tahoe from pollution, rejecting a takings challenge brought by more than 400 Tahoe property owners. The ruling is a major victory that preserves the ability of local governments to protect fragile resources from environmental harm.

Books & Reports

CRC’s attorneys authored books and reports examining important constitutional topics including judicial ethics, federalism and the Takings Clause.

Books

The Good News About Takings: The Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause supports reasonable land use planning and environmental protections, as this concise overview of recent Supreme Court cases on the Takings Clause explains.

Redefining Federalism: If federalism is about protecting the states, why not listen to them? Redefining Federalism explains how the states feel about the Supreme Court’s federalism jurisprudence. The Harvard Law Review praised the book as “a refreshing and welcome contribution to a debate that is sure to continue.”

Takings Litigation Handbook:The first soup-to-nuts guide for local government attorneys seeking to defend the constitutionality of their land use laws.

Reports

The Alito Report: On January 6th, 2006, CAC's predecessor, CRC,  released a report on Judge Alito's record on environmental issues titled "Alito Nomination Raises Fundamental Concerns about the Future of Environmental Law," and asked the Senate to examine his record closely during his confirmation hearings. 

Judging the Environment Project: A central part of the mission of CAC's predecessor organization, Community Rights Counsel, was educating the public and policymakers and galvanizing the environmental community around the threat courts pose to environmental safeguards.  CAC continues CRC's work by holding judges accountable to the Constitution, not a party platform or ideological agenda.

Junkets for Judges: In early 1998, CAC's predecessor, Community Rights Counsel, then a fledgling organization with no paid staff, discovered and broke the remarkable news that each year dozens of federal judges were being wined, dined, and indoctrinated at anti-environmental “junkets for judges.” The front-page story that followed in the Washington Post generated outrage from judicial ethics experts, hearings on Capitol Hill, and dozens of news stories and editorials.

The Takings Project: Using Federal Courts to Attack Community and Environmental Protections: In April 1998, CRC released a comprehensive investigative report that chronicles and critiques the increasingly successful campaign by conservative legal activists to use the court system to further an anti-regulatory political agenda. The report traces what it dubs the "Takings Project" from its roots in the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Edwin Meese, through the systematic efforts of developers and property rights groups to move takings cases through the court system and finally to the case law, where conservative jurists have ignored procedural rules and made significant leaps in the face of precedent in order to upend the accepted interpretation of the Takings Clause.

To see a timeline of CRC's work on judicial junkets, click here.