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Sci Files Supremely Rare Third Brief in High Court

SCI has filed its sixth brief with the U.S. Supreme Court.  This latest filing supports SCI member John Sturgeon, an Alaska resident who enjoys moose hunting. 

Sturgeon has been given a chance to bring his case to the Supreme Court not once, but twice.  The outcome of Sturgeon’s case could have an historic impact on the use of many waterways within National Preserve lands in Alaska.

It all started with Sturgeon’s plan to hunt moose. After years of using his personal hovercraft on the Nation River in Alaska to reach his favorite moose hunting spot, the National Park Service, in 2007, threatened him with prosecution if he continued. 

The Nation River flows through the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, and even though the NPS does not have title to the rivers within the Preserve, it claims that it can regulate how people use them, including prohibiting the use of all hovercraft. 

Many people, including Sturgeon, disagree with the NPS’s interpretation of its authority to regulate rivers in Alaska, so he challenged the NPS in court.

After unsuccessful litigation in a U.S. District Court in 2013 and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2014, Sturgeon petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case.  Because so many people ask the Supreme Court to review their cases each year, only about two percent are selected for review.  Two percent! 

Needless to say, it was a long shot that Sturgeon’s case would be selected.  SCI filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Sturgeon’s request for review in 2015 and the Court agreed to hear the case. 

After Sturgeon filed his opening brief, SCI submitted another amicus brief in support of his arguments.  After reading all the briefs and hearing oral argument, the Supreme Court ruled in Sturgeon’s favor. 

Victory!  But, the Court limited its ruling to a single aspect of his claim and sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court for further review.

The Ninth Circuit again ruled against Sturgeon, this time based on completely different reasoning. 

supreme courtIn 2018, Sturgeon again requested review from the Supreme Court.  At this point, it was likely to require a minor miracle for his case to be part of the two percent selected for review a second time.  Well, miracles do happen—the Supreme Court again agreed to hear his case.      

On Aug. 14, 2018, SCI filed a third amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of Sturgeon.  SCI’s brief focused on several reasons why the Ninth Circuit’s holding was wrong and how it could have other negative impacts, including on other hunters and hunting opportunities. 

SCI asked the Supreme Court to settle this dispute, once and for all, in favor of Sturgeon.  After all, the man just wants to go hunting.    

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