cjboxportrait.jpg

Defending Private Property Rights … on the Best-Seller List

Last month, I had the privilege of attending the Pacific Legal Foundation’s 40th Anniversary Gala at the Reagan Library. For those who are unfamiliar with PLF … well, get over to their website as soon as possible. Their work defending private property rights, limited government, and economic freedom — as well as resisting environmental extremism — in the courts is truly magnificent. They deserve every bit of support you can give them.

Little did I know that Ricochet’s own C.J. Box would also be in attendance that evening (C.J. is relatively easy to spot in the Los Angeles suburbs — he’s the only guy in the room who can pull off the cowboy hat). The reason he was there? It turns out that one of PLF’s recent cases provide the inspiration for his newest best-seller, Breaking Point, which debuted at #5 on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list.

From PLF:

[Breaking Point] is inspired by the plight of Pacific Legal Foundation’s clients, Mike and Chantell Sackett of Priest Lake, Idaho, who fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for their right to challenge the abusive treatment they received from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

… [The Sacketts] paid $26,000 for a small parcel in Priest Lake, in 2005, intending to build a three-bedroom family home for themselves. The land is in a residential subdivision, bordered on two sides by neighbors’ houses. The Sacketts complied with all local requirements, obtained a county permit to build, and started laying gravel. But then they were blindsided by federal bureaucrats. EPA officials suddenly swooped in and — and without notice or hearings, or even setting foot on the property — labeled it as “wetlands.” The agency followed up by ordering the Sacketts to stop work, remove the gravel, and return the property to a “natural” state, on pain of astronomical fines — totaling more than $70,000 per day!

The Sacketts wanted to challenge the EPA’s claim that their land was “wetlands” — but the agency denied their request for a hearing. It also said they couldn’t appeal directly to the judiciary — and the Ninth Circuit backed the EPA up. It held they would first have to go through a years-long “wetlands” permit process, which could cost 12 times the value of their land!

Represented by attorneys with PLF, the Sacketts asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case — and the Court agreed. At oral argument, “justices across the ideological spectrum appeared troubled by the EPA’s position that Mike and Chantell Sackett do not have the right to go to court to challenge the agency’s wetlands decision,” as The Washington Post reported.

A number of the justices didn’t hide their outrage. “If you related the facts of this case — as they come to us — to an ordinary homeowner,” Justice Samuel Alito said to the government’s attorney, “don’t you think most ordinary homeowners would say this kind of thing can’t happen in the United States?”

In a 9-0 decision last March, the justices overturned the Ninth Circuit and upheld the Sacketts’ right to challenge EPA’s “wetlands” orders in court. The ruling set a landmark precedent for property owners nationwide, by establishing that any landowner may file an immediate court appeal if he or she is hit with a “wetlands compliance order” by federal regulators.

C.J., who is currently out on a national tour promoting the book is far too humble (not to mention busy) to bring this up himself, but all of us here at Ricochet congratulate him on its success — and thank him for using it as a vehicle for reasserting the importance of foundational American freedoms.

  1. cdor

    Way to go CJ and the PLF. These kinds of stories are chilling. Was the USSR ever this bad? Wait until these same types of people take over our healthcare. That’s one thing I could wait forever for.

  2. Mike

    Loved Breaking Point. Have read all his books. The guy’s good.

  3. DocJay
    cdor: Way to go CJ and the PLF. These kinds of stories are chilling. Was the USSR ever this bad? Wait until these same types of people take over our healthcare. That’s one thing I could wait forever for. · 20 minutes ago

    But a clever writer would have the stories outlined.  It’s going to get ugly.

    C.J., who is currently out on a national tour promoting the book is far too humble (not to mention busy) to bring this up himself, but all of us here at Ricochet congratulate him on its success — and thank him for using it as a vehicle for reasserting the importance of foundational American freedoms.

    Congrats CJ.  Hope it’s the best seller ever for you.

  4. Jojo

    Answer to the question posed in a post below, why you don’t hear “it’s a free country” so much. 

    Bless him for getting the story out there.

    In any story of this kind you want to have some idea “Why?” ….My theory is some neighbors with clout did not want their view spoiled.

    Edit: I’ll have to read the book to find out!

  5. Look Away

    Started it yesterday evening and finished it this morning. C.J.’s best book yet IMHO. Frankly I consider myself pretty up to date on Leviathan, but C.J.’s description of the mendacity of bureaucracy throughout the book was pretty chilling.

    Excellent effort C.J. !!

  6. DocJay

    So what do we do when the scotus flips and it’s 6-3 liberal?  Will the leftists be empowered to enforce the 9th’s draconian interpretations of government power?  Will such judges as well as EPA officials need bullet proof houses and guards until we are all subdued? 

  7. doulalady

    Great combination… CJ’s books on Audible.

  8. FeliciaB

    Right on CJ!

  9. The Annapolitan

    My eyes are popping out and there is steam coming from my ears, totally outraged that the Sacketts had to go all the way to the Supreme Court – and won! – and all they got for their trouble and expense was the right to challenge the absurdity of the EPA!Call me when there is a public whipping of the bastard who initiated this. Then there will satisfaction.

  10. C.J. Box
    C

    Troy, thank you for the terrific post.  It’s tough out on the book tour trail but I’ve been heartened by how well the book is doing (now on its second week on the NYT list at #7) and how many readers seem to embrace it.  The Sackett case was — and is — one of the most outrageous real-life examples of federal arrogance and overreach I’ve ever researched.  My blood was boiling for a year while I wrote the book, which, as you’ve indicated, is fictionalized.

    A couple of quick items of notes — I’ll fill in more later — from the book tour. 

    1.) Thousands of readers now know about the Sackett vs. EPA case, and many have done independent research on it well beyond my book.  BREAKING POINT, if nothing else, has opened a whole lot of eyes.  Bless the PLF.

    2.) Each and every night someone lines up to get a book signed and tells me of a bad personal experience they’ve had with the EPA, or some other federal agency. 

    Thanks to so many Ricochet members for reading it.

  11. C.J. Box
    C
    The Annapolitan: My eyes are popping out and there is steam coming from my ears, totally outraged that the Sacketts had to go all the way to the Supreme Court – and won! – and all they got for their trouble and expense was the right to challenge the absurdity of the EPA!Call me when there is a public whipping of the bastard who initiated this. Then there will satisfaction. · 4 minutes ago

    As far as I know, not a single EPA employee or official was fired, reprimanded, or reassigned.

  12. C.J. Box
    C
    Look Away: Started it yesterday evening and finished it this morning. C.J.’s best book yet IMHO. Frankly I consider myself pretty up to date on Leviathan, but C.J.’s description of the mendacity of bureaucracy throughout the book was pretty chilling.

    Excellent effort C.J. !! · 3 hours ago

    Thank you kindly.

  13. C.J. Box
    C
    Mike: Loved Breaking Point. Have read all his books. The guy’s good. · 4 hours ago

    Thank you, Mike.  And my wife thanks you, and my daughters thank you…

  14. C.J. Box
    C

    I thought of another observation from the tour.  On occasion, someone in the audience — or on Amazon — will react to the book in a knee-jerk liberal way, accusing me of being a Rand Paul guy or saying the book is a Tea Party rant (not that there’s anything wrong with either!).

    I feel compelled to point out that the initial action against the Sacketts took place six years ago, during the Bush Administration, although the current administration carried on and fought the Sacketts all the way to the Supreme Court.  Suddenly, their outlook changes.  Suddenly, it’s an outrage after all.  The transformation is nothing short of…miraculous!

  15. PracticalMary

    Loved the book- can’t decide if I want Joe to…well, better not say as a spoiler.

  16. bellcpa

    This book is excellent — just like all of CJ’s books.  By the time I was finished, my blood was boiling.  DocJay is correct: we’re all screwed when the libs run the Supreme Court.  The most telling page in the book was at the end — showing how much western land is controlled by the feds.  Because of their presence, an army of federal bureaucrats is running rough-shod over the locals.  The characterization of them in CJ’s book is spot on with the ones I have met.  Pure arrogance, and contempt for us peasants.