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Supreme Court Opposes Obama In Water Rights Case

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Landowners complaining of government overreach will be able to challenge some federal regulatory decisions affecting their property rights after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in their favor, delivering a blow to President Barack Obama.

The court decided 8-0 in favor of North Dakota-based Hawkes Co., Inc., which challenged a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finding that the contested property includes wetlands protected by the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act, reported Yahoo! News. That law mandates that property owners get permits in such situations.

And the ruling allows landowners to fight the feds in court if regulators decide that a piece of property containing wetlands is covered by the 1972 law, which requires landowners to get a federal-approved permit, reported Bloomberg.

"Today's ruling marks a long-awaited victory for individual liberty, property rights and the rule of law," said Reed Hopper of the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, who argued the case before the court for Hawkes. "Everyone who values property rights and access to justice should welcome this historic victory.”

According to The Hill, the main dispute was whether a jurisdictional determination carries legal consequences, which would be required for the decision to be a "final" agency action. The Obama administration argued that since new information can change the finding, it is not like final actions, but the Supreme Court didn't buy it.

The law "continues to raise troubling questions regarding the government’s power to cast doubt on the full use and enjoyment of private property throughout the nation," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for himself as well as Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, reported Bloomberg.

The Court's decision is seen as a big win for property rights activists.

“For more than 40 years, millions of landowners nationwide have had no meaningful way to challenge wrongful application of the federal Clean Water Act to their land. They have been put at the mercy of the government because land covered by the Act is subject to complete federal control,” Hopper said. “This victory guarantees the rights of millions of property owners.” 

Sources: Bloomberg, Yahoo! News, The Hill / Photo credit: Joe Ravi/Wikipedia

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