Eleventh Circuit Weighs in on Split Re Holding of Rapanos v. U.S.

Per U.S. v. Robison, 505 F.3d 1208 (11th Cir. Oct. 24, 2007):

The parties dispute what constitutes the governing definition of “navigable waters” under Rapanos v. United States, ---U.S. ----, 126 S.Ct. 2208, 165 L.Ed.2d 159 (2006). The defendants argue that only Justice Kennedy's concurrence (i.e., the “significant nexus” test) applies. The government responds that if Avondale Creek can be shown to satisfy either the plurality's test or Justice Kennedy's test, that is sufficient to sustain CWA jurisdiction in this case.

The circuits likewise are split on the question of which Rapanos opinion provides the holding. Both the Seventh and the Ninth Circuits concluded that Justice Kennedy's concurrence controls and adopted the “significant nexus” test. See N. Cal. River Watch v. City of Healdsburg, 496 F.3d 993, 999-1000 (9th Cir.2007) (“ River Watch II”);FN12 United States v. Gerke Excavating, Inc., 464 F.3d 723, 724-25 (7th Cir.2006), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 128 S.Ct. 45, 76 U.S.L.W. 3156, 2007 WL 1035893 (U.S. Oct. 1, 2007) (No. 06-1331). The First Circuit, on the other hand, concluded that because the dissenting Rapanos Justices would find jurisdiction under either Justice Scalia's plurality test or Justice Kennedy's “significant nexus” test, “ ‘the United States may elect to prove jurisdiction under either test.’ ” United States v. Johnson, 467 F.3d 56, 64 (1st Cir.2006) (citation omitted), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 128 S.Ct. 375, 76 U.S.L.W. 3186, 2007 WL 1999079 (U.S. Oct. 9, 2007) (No. 07-9).

. . .

[W]e join the Seventh and the Ninth Circuits' conclusion that Justice Kennedy's “significant nexus” test provides the governing rule of Rapanos.

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