490 U.S. 1114 (1989)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

CHRISTY v. LUJAN , 490 U.S. 1114 (1989)

490 U.S. 1114

Richard P. CHRISTY, et al., petitioners,
Manuel LUJAN, Jr., Secretary of the Interior and United States Department of the Interior. No. 88-1461.

Supreme Court of the United States

June 12, 1989

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice WHITE, dissenting.

Petitioner Christy is a herder who grazed his sheep on leased land near Glacier National Park. Between July 1 and July 9, 1982, grizzly bears from the park killed 20 of Christy's sheep. Requests for assistance from park rangers yielded no results, and efforts to frighten away the bears were unsuccessful. On July 9, when two grizzlies emerged from the forest and approached Christy's sheep, he shot and killed a bear. Grizzlies, however, are an "endangered species"; Christy's killing of the bear thus violated the Endangered Species Act, which makes it unlawful to " harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect" grizzlies and other animals protected by the statute. 16 U.S.C.

Page 490 U.S. 1114 , 1115

1538(a)(1), 1532(19). Christy was consequently assessed a $2,500 penalty for shooting the bear.

Christy then filed this action in District Court, seeking to enjoin enforcement of the Act against herders like himself, and resisting payment of the $2,500 penalty. Christy claimed, inter alia, that his actions in defense of his livestock were protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment; alternatively, Christy contended that the Act resulted in an uncompensated "taking" of his property. Both the District Court and the Ninth Circuit rejected these claims, and this petition ensued.

I would grant the petition for certiorari to consider Christy's constitutional claims. Christy's claim of a constitutional right to defend his property is not insubstantial. The right to defend one's property has long been recognized at common law, see W. Blackstone, Commentaries * 138-140, and is deeply rooted in the legal traditions of this country, see, e.g., Beard v. United States, 158 U.S. 550, 555, 15 S. Ct. 962, 963 (1895). Having the freedom to take actions necessary to protect one's property may well be a liberty "deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition," Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 503, 1938 (1977) (opinion of Powell, J .), and, therefore, entitled to the substantive protection of the Due Process Clause. In any event, Christy's claim to such protection presents an interesting and important question-the proper resolution of which is not altogether clear-that merits plenary review.

Even more substantial is Christy's claim that the Endangered Species Act operates as a governmental authorization of a "taking" of his property ; leaving him uncompensated for this taking violates the Fifth Amendment, Christy contends. There can be little doubt that if a federal statute authorized park rangers to come around at night and take Christy's livestock to feed the bears, such a governmental action would constituted a "taking." The Court of Appeals below, and the federal parties in their submission here, distinguish such a case from this one, by noting that the United States "does not 'own' the wild animals it protects, nor does the government control the conduct of such animals." Christy v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1324, 1335 (CA9 1988); see Brief of the Respondents in Opposition.

Perhaps not; but the Government does make it unlawful for Christy to " harass, harm, [or] pursue" such animals when they come to take his property-and perhaps a Government edict bar- [490 U.S. 1114 , 1116]

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.