e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 60103
Opinion Date : 06/02/2015
e-Journal Date : 06/04/2015
Court : Michigan Court of Appeals
Case Name : Johnson v. Department of Natural Res.
Practice Area(s) : Environmental Law, Constitutional Law
Judge(s) : Gleicher, K.F. Kelly, and Servitto
Full Text Opinion
Issues:

Whether the wild Russian boar is an “invasive species”; The Invasive Species Act (MCL 324.41301 et seq.); Whether the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) order declaring the wild Russian boar an invasive species was void for vagueness and violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses; U.S. Const. amend. XIV; Const. 1963, art. 1, §§ 2 & 17; Statute authorizing certain individuals to shoot on sight “swine running at large”; MCL 433.14a; The DNR’s issuance of Invasive Species Order Amendment No. 1 (ISO); Whether the ISO amounted to an unconstitutional taking of property and whether the DNR’s director lacked the legal authority to issue it; Michigan Animal Farmers Ass’n v. Department of Natural Res. & Env’t (Unpub.); Requirement that the ISO identifies a prohibited species; MCL 324.41302(2) (formerly (3)); Whether the ISO was “void-for-vagueness”; Grayned v. City of Rockford; “Fair notice”; Kenefick v. Battle Creek; People v. Hrlic; People v. Sands

Summary

The court held the trial court erred by finding that the defendant-DNR’s ISO banning wild Russian boar violated equal protection and due process. However, it held that the trial court did not err by finding that the ISO was not unconstitutionally vague. The DNR issued its ISO declaring the wild Russian Boar an invasive species. Plaintiffs are Russian boar owners. The trial court found that they lacked standing to assert a vagueness challenge, but agreed with them on their equal protection and due process claims. It also found that the animals under plaintiffs’ control were exempt from the ISO because they qualified as domestic hogs, and it enjoined any enforcement of the ISO against them. On appeal, the court found that the “classifications set forth in the ISO are reasonable and rationally related to legitimate environmental objectives.” It noted that the “policy reasons for the distinction” between the two species of pigs qualified “as plausible, evidence-based, and directly related to the goal of eradicating Michigan’s wild boar scourge.” Further, the “decision to ban ‘Russian wild boar (sus scrofa Linnaeus)’ advances the DNR’s legitimate objective of preventing any augmentation of the present wild pig population.” Thus, “the ISO easily survives [the] equal protection challenge.” While “the ISO discriminates among pigs, the distinctions it draws are eminently rational, and thereby permissible.” The court also found that the ISO did not contravene substantive due process principles. “Given the DNR’s well-founded fear that escaped boar of the species Sus scrofa Linnaeus will decimate existing ecosystems, the decision to name these pigs as invasive species is neither arbitrary nor capricious. The ISO bears a rational relationship to the DNR’s interest in protecting the environment from the perils posed by escaped Russian boar.” The court next held that plaintiffs’ void-for-vagueness claim lacked merit, noting that the ISO provided “fair notice that plaintiffs’ pigs are prohibited. Its terms are clear enough. Whether living domestically or in the wild, Sus scrofa Linnaeus is now deemed an invasive species. Plaintiffs quarrel with the legitimacy of the Sus scrofa Linnaeus designation, but they do not deny that their pigs meet it.” Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Full Text Opinion

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