Finality and the Virtues of Jurisdictional Declarations
In United States Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., the Supreme Court held that a “jurisdictional determination” issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was final agency action subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The fact that the Supreme Court’s decision was both unanimous and yet also yielded four separate opinions hints at the interesting and important administrative law issues that lurk in the details.
The parties who filed the initial lawsuit and appealed to the Court were three companies that operate a peat-mining operation in Marshall County, Minnesota. The companies were seeking to expand their existing mining operation to include an adjacent 530-acre tract of land. The tract includes wetlands containing high-value peat that the companies believed would be suitable, as Chief Justice Roberts quipped, “to provide structural support and moisture for smooth, stable greens that leave golfers with no one to blame but themselves for errant putts.”