Notice Of Exemption Triggers A 35-Day Statute Of Limitations Under CEQA Despite Flaws in Underlying Approval

On April 1, 2010, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that flaws in the decision making process underlying a facially valid and properly filed Notice of Exemption ("NOE") do not prevent the NOE from triggering a 35-day statute of limitations period for challenging the agency's determination under the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"). The decision ended a lawsuit challenging the approval of a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Stockton, California (the "City"). In overturning the lower courts, the Supreme Court held that when an NOE minimally complies with CEQA, it is sufficient to trigger the 35-day statute of limitations under CEQA. and a plaintiff can not argue the merits of the underlying approval as a means of circumventing the statute of limitations.

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