Marin County may delay oyster suits

07/11/2013

A preliminary ruling in Marin Superior Court last week paused a lawsuit between the California Coastal Commission and Drakes Bay Oyster Company and its supporters after a judge decided to wait for a resolution to pending litigation between the oyster farm and the federal government. In April, both oysterman Kevin Lunny and biologist and former coastal commissioner Phyllis Faber filed nearly identical suits against the commission after the agency ordered the farm to cease and desist a number of operations, as well as remove its oyster racks in the instance that it loses its suit in federal court. The lawyers working on their behalf have since combined their suits. Judge Lynn Duryee ruled that evidence used by the court could differ significantly depending on the outcome of federal litigation, and said it was a poor use of resources to issue a ruling before that case runs its course. For Mr. Lunny, her decision, though not final, was a minor victory. “We’re happy to see Judge Duryee say, ‘Let’s just see how the federal case works out,’” said Mr. Lunny, who added that the state’s deputy attorney general, representing the commission, argued in court that the case should move forward and the commission should implement the orders immediately because of what he claims are ongoing environmental harms. “Frankly, the only reason we’re in state court with the coastal commission is that their orders appear to be an attempt to put us out of business. It could essentially obviate any need for federal litigation if they put us out of business.”