Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Family Asks Supreme Court to Save Oyster Farm

A third generation ocean ranching family is seeking a judicial review through the US Supreme Court in an effort to keep operating an 80-year-old California oyster farm in what is now Point Reyes National Seashore north of San Francisco.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on April 14 for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in this case.

At issue is former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s denial of Drakes Bay’s permit to continue operating the oyster farm.

The original deal for creation of Point Reyes National Seashore, which was supported by the National Park Service, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, and other interested environmental and civic groups, was that the oyster farm was always supposed to stay.

The Ninth Circuit Court held that a federal court does not have jurisdiction to review a discretionary agency decision for abuse of discretion. At stake, say owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., is whether the government, in making countless everyday decisions, can be taken to court when it abuses its power.

A writ of certiorari is an order a higher court issues in order to review the decision and proceedings in a lower court and to determine whether there were any irregularities. When the Supreme Court orders a lower court to transmit records for a case for which it will hear on appeal, it is done through a writ of certiorari.

“If this judgment is not overturned, government agencies will have the power to deny a permit to any individual or business for any reason, without judicial review,” said Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., “Citizens must have recourse in the face of an arbitrary and capricious decision.”

Lunny’s small, family-owned farm has been in a legal battle with federal regulators for its survival. Because Drakes Bay showed that there is a “reasonable probability” that the Supreme Court will take this case and a “significant possibility” that the oyster farm will win, the Ninth Circuit has allowed Drakes Bay to remain open while it takes its case to the Supreme Court.

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