Amici briefs filed with high court


Four amici briefs were filed with the Supreme Court last week in support of Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s bid to continue farming. The company is appealing a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denying a request for an emergency injunction to remain open as it litigates against the federal government, which declined to renew the farm’s use permit in late 2012. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative-leaning law firm, and the California Cattleman’s Association argued that justices should resolve differing interpretations of when courts can review the denial of agricultural permits on federal lands. The Ninth Circuit, they said, interprets the Administrative Procedure Act more restrictively than the Tenth Circuit, whose states together comprise most federal grazing lands in the country. Permit holders in states like California, Nevada and Idaho have less recourse to contest decisions than those in New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, they argued. In another brief, two scientists, Corey Goodman and Paul Houser, argued that courts have a duty to ensure that scientific evidence is accurate and used appropriately to inform federal agencies, neither of which happened with Drakes Bay. The court system has a duty, they say, to review such cases because federal agencies should not be able to simply say they didn’t rely on flawed data. A brief submitted by a coalition of restaurateurs and agriculturalists outlined the role that the farm plays in the Bay Area’s farm-to-table movement. The Supreme Court hears just 75 to 80 of 10,000 requests annually; it could be weeks, or months, before the farm finds out if it is one the chosen or if they must cease operations. Drakes Bay is also battling the California Coastal Commission in Marin Superior Court; though a tentative ruling favored many of their arguments, a final is forthcoming. In the meantime, the farm continues to sell oysters, every day, in the Point Reyes National Seashore.