Thursday, November 14, 2013

Center for Biological Diversity v. Scarlett case brief

Center for Biological Diversity v. Scarlett case brief
452 F.Supp.2d 966

CASE SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff environmental groups filed a motion for an award of attorney fees and costs pursuant to § 11(g)(4) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C.S. § 1540(g)(4), in connection with their efforts to have defendants, the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), list the California spotted owl as endangered under § 4 of the ESA, 16 U.S.C.S. § 1533.

FACTS: The primary goal of plaintiffs' lawsuit was to compel FWS to add the California spotted owl to the list of endangered species and to designate its critical habitat. Plaintiffs sought to overturn FWS's February 2003 finding that the owl was not an endangered and threatened species. Four months after filing the suit, plaintiffs filed an updated listing petition in light of the 2004 revisions to the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA).

  • Although plaintiffs obtained relief requiring defendants to timely consider their September 2004 petition to review the owl's status in light of the SNFPA revisions, they were not successful in obtaining protected status for the owl because FWS's 12-month review ultimately resulted in another denial of protected status. 
  • The court held that plaintiffs were not entitled to attorney fees under the relaxed catalyst doctrine of fee shifting because they failed to realize the goals of their lawsuit. 
  • The court found that recharacterizing FWS's decision to review the owl's status as a partial success would require recasting the goal of the litigation to include the timely consideration of a petition was not filed until after the litigation had begun.
CONCLUSION: The court denied plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees and costs.

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