Ninth Circuit Abandons Federal Defendant Rule Prohibiting Intervention Of Right In NEPA Cases


On January 14, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit filed its opinion upon review of a decision by the Idaho District Court to deny a motion to intervene in a case under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"). In The Wilderness Society; Prairie Falcon Audubon, Inc. v. U.S. Forest Service, et al., No. 09-35200 (9th Cir. Jan. 14, 2011) ("Wilderness Society"), the Ninth Circuit abandoned the "federal defendant rule," which categorically prohibited intervention on the merits, or liability phase, of NEPA actions.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) requires the court, upon timely motion, to permit anyone to intervene who:

claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

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