People v. Rinehart, Conflicting Jurisprudence, and Certiorari

By: Sahand Farahati

16th November, 2016

On August 22, 2016, the California Supreme Court rendered a decision in People v. Rinehart that upheld an effective ban on suction dredge mining in the state.  Suction dredge mining is a method that uses a high powered suction device to vacuum loose material from streambeds and then separate the silt and gravel from valuable minerals, often gold.  This method of mining is known to disturb endangered coho salmon habitats and contribute to mercury poisoning in humans and fish.  At the same time, miners argue that it is the only practicable method of excavating gold.  These conflicting interests were described by the Rinehart court as “arising from the competing desires to exploit and to preserve [the state’s] various resources.”

Despite the court’s ruling, this may not be the end of the line for the case.  James Buchal, the attorney arguing against the ban, has said he might appeal to the United States Supreme Court. The defendant has ninety days from the entry of state court judgment to file for certiorari.  It is difficult to predict the chances that the Supreme Court would grant certiorari, but for the reasons below, the defendant may have a viable prospect to get before the Court.

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