United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMICUS CURIAE
BRIEF (DOC. NO. 75)
the court is a motion for leave to file an amicus curiae
brief addressing plaintiffs' motion for preliminary
injunction currently pending before the court. The motion
seeking such leave was filed by Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions
(“YSS” or “movant”), a collaborative
group comprising diverse interests working to achieve healthy
forests and watersheds and to develop recovery and
restoration plans for the Rim Fire and other areas of their
region in need of rehabilitation. (Doc. No. 75.) Plaintiffs
object to the proposed filing of the amicus curiae, while the
motion itself indicates that federal and state defendants do
not. (Doc. No. 75-1 at 2.) A hearing on plaintiffs'
motion for preliminary injunction was held on December 3,
2019. Attorney Meriel Darzen appeared for the plaintiffs.
Attorneys Dustin Weisman and Tyler Alexander appeared for the
federal defendants, and attorneys Awbrey Yost and Kimberly
Gosling appeared for the state defendants. Attorney Lawson
Fite appeared telephonically for YSS. For reasons discussed
below, the court grants the motion for leave to file an
amicus curiae brief.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not set forth the manner
and circumstances in which an amicus brief may be filed in
district courts. District courts therefore rely on Federal
Rule of Appellate Procedure 29 in addressing such requests.
See California v. United States Dep't of Labor,
No. 2:13-cv-02069-KJM-DAD, 2014 WL 12691095, at *1 (E.D. Cal.
Jan. 14, 2014). The Ninth Circuit has held that “[t]he
district court has broad discretion to appoint amici curiae,
” and the appellate court will reverse “only if
the district judge has abused his discretion.”
Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1260 (9th Cir.
1982), overruled on other grounds by Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472 (1995). “The touchstone is
whether the amicus is ‘helpful,' and there is no
requirement ‘that amici must be totally
disinterested.'” United States Dep't of
Labor, 2014 WL 12691095 at *1 (citing Hoptowit,
682 F.2d at 1260.) The court will not consider issues that
are raised only in an amicus brief unless the circumstances
are exceptional. Id.
first object that the motion seeking leave to file an amicus
curiae brief is not timely and YSS is not a disinterested
party. (Doc. No. 83 at 4-5.) Plaintiffs note that the brief
was filed a week before the hearing on the pending motion for
preliminary injunction. (Id.) Federal Rule of
Appellate Procedure 29 states that an amicus curiae must file
its motion and brief “no later than 7 days after the
principal brief of the party being supported is filed.”
Although YSS does not explicitly state as much, a review of
the amicus brief, (Doc. No. 75-2 at 2), makes it clear that
it was filed in support of the briefs in opposition to
plaintiffs' motion filed by the federal and state
defendants on November 19, 2019. (Doc. Nos. 70, 71.) YSS
filed its brief on November 25, 2019. (Doc. No. 75.) The
amicus filing is therefore timely. Moreover, as noted above,
the Ninth Circuit does not require YSS to be a disinterested
party in order to be granted leave to file an amicus curiae
brief . See United States Dep't of Labor, 2014
WL 12691095 at *1.
plaintiffs argue that YSS does not provide a unique
perspective or analysis that is not already being covered in
the parties' briefing addressing the pending motion.
(Doc. No. 83 at 5-6.) The court disagrees. “Amicus
briefs are frequently welcome . . . concerning legal issues
that have potential ramifications beyond the parties directly
involved or if the amicus has unique information or
perspective that can help the court beyond the help that the
lawyers for the parties are able to provide.”
United States Dep't of Labor, 2014 WL 12691095,
at *1 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Given
the impacts on the “watershed, scenic, and recreational
values that are important to local businesses and area
residents, ” (Doc. No. 75-2 at 8), this case has
“potential ramifications beyond the parties directly
involved.” United States Dep't of Labor,
2014 WL 12691095, at *1. YSS appears to be a stakeholder
group comprising “a highly diverse range of forest
stakeholders-recreational interests, local environmental
groups, the timber industry, sportsman groups, local
politicians, the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk, and others who care
about the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park,
and private timberlands of the region.” (Doc. No. 75-2
at 2.) This perspective is distinguishable from that of the
non-profit group and government parties.
plaintiffs assert that amicus participation will confuse the
issues and facts of this case because the proposed brief
contains neither caselaw nor a citation to a law or rule, and
YSS does not purport to add any information of equal or
higher quality than that already provided by the parties.
(Doc. No. 83 at 6.) Nonetheless, courts have held it is
“‘preferable to err on the side of'
permitting [amicus] briefs.” Duronslet v. County of
Los Angeles, No. 2:16-cv-08933-ODW (PLAx), 2017 WL
5643144, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 23, 2017) (citing
Neonatology Assocs., P.A. v. C.I.R., 293 F.3d 128,
133 (3d Cir. 2002)). This court adopts that view. Here, the
amicus brief may assist the court in resolving the issues
before it, including whether the projects' climate change
impacts require cumulative impact assessment, whether Forest
Service treatment methods are causing harm that calls for
supplemental environmental review, and whether the HUD grant
is being used for disaster relief. (Doc. No. 75-2 at 5-9.)
Additionally, movant's counsel stated at the hearing on
the motion that the sworn declaration of John Buckley, (Doc.
No. 75-3), serves as the basis of the contentions contained
in the amicus brief itself. Ultimately, if the filed amicus
brief “turns out to be unhelpful, ” the court
“can then simply disregard” it. United States
Dep't of Labor, 2014 WL 12691095, at *1 “On
the other hand, if a good brief is rejected, the [Court] will
be deprived of a resource that might have been of
good cause, the court grants the motion. The amicus curiae
brief submitted with the request (Doc. ...