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Property Rights and the Supreme Court

In 2005, a couple bought 0.63 acres of land in a northern Idaho subdivision.  They began making preparations to build a house by clearing the land and laying gravel for the foundation.  Soon, however, the United States Environmental Protection Agency informed the couple that their land was classified as protected wetlands, and, absent the necessary permit, they would need to halt construction and bring the land back to its original state. For every day they did not comply, they could face a $37,000 fine authorized under the Clean Water Act. The EPA refused to hold a hearing to allow the couple to challenge their findings. The couple asserted that their land was not in fact part of a protected wetland, and that the EPA’s compliance order was a violation of due process rights.  The case reached the Supreme Court, where the judges unanimously ruled that the EPA’s orders could be challenged in court.


Questions to Consider

  1. What are the facts of the case in Sackett v. EPA?
  2. The couple has appealed their case all the way up to the United State Supreme Court?  How did the lower courts judge this case?  Do you agree with their findings?  Why or why not?
  3. What argument(s) are the couple is making against the EPA regarding their land?
  4. How do you think the Court should have decided this case? What is your constitutional reasoning?