Robertson v. Seattle Audubon Soc., 503 U.S. 429 (1992)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1991

Syllabus

ROBERTSON, CHIEF, UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, et al. v. SEATTLE AUDUBON SOCIETY et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 90-1596. Argued December 2, 1991—Decided March 25, 1992

Respondent environmental groups filed separate lawsuits challenging proposed timber harvesting in certain forests managed by the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These forests are home to the northern spotted owl, an endangered species. Between them, the two lawsuits alleged violations of five federal statutes. The lower courts preliminarily enjoined some of the challenged harvesting. In response to this ongoing litigation, Congress enacted 318 of the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1990, also known as the Northwest Timber Compromise. Section 318 both required harvesting and expanded harvesting restrictions. Subsections (b)(3) and (b)(5) prohibited harvesting altogether in various designated areas, and subsection (b)(6)(A) stated in part that "Congress hereby determines and directs that management [of the forests] according to subsections (b)(3) and (b)(5) . . . is adequate consideration for the purpose of meeting the statutory requirements that are the basis for [the two cases,]" which were identified by name and caption number. Both District Courts rejected respondents' claims that subsection (b)(6)(A) violated Article III of the Constitution by purporting to direct results in two pending cases. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding the provision unconstitutional under United States v. Klein, 13 Wall. 128, on the ground that Congress directed a particular decision in the cases without repealing or amending the statutes underlying the litigation.

Held: Subsection (b)(6)(A) does not violate Article III. Pp. 437-441. (a) The provision compelled changes in law, not results under old law, by replacing the legal standards underlying the two original cases with those set forth in subsections (b)(3) and (b)(5). Before its enactment, respondents' claims would fail only if the challenged harvesting violated none of the provisions of the five statutes that formed the basis for the original lawsuits. Under subsection (b)(6)(A), however, the claims would fail if the harvesting satisfied both of two new provisions. Thus, subsection (b)(6)(A)'s operation modified the old provisions. Moreover,

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