We have scheduled a meeting with the legal team from Democracy Forward to discuss the Potomac River closure lawsuit that CCA is considering joining. All members are welcome to attend. The meeting will at Barbara Brown's house.
Below is information that was sent out previously.
Protection of Potomac River Access
History: The US Coast Guard and Maryland Department of Natural Resources, at the request of the US Secret Service, closes the Potomac River between Riley’s Lock and Violette’s Lock every time President Trump plays golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, VA. The golf course is directly across the river from Riley’s Lock. You can read the summery of Docket Number USCG–2017–0448 on the Federal Register. You can review the history of CCA’s involvement in this issue at Potomac Security Zone.
CCA Members: Please give us your opinion and commentary. This will cost CCA nothing and hopefully earn the Potomac the protection it deserves. Email your thoughts to Barbara Brown email@example.com and Jennifer Sass firstname.lastname@example.org.
Democracy Forward (DF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit DC-based organization that challenges federal government action on behalf of nonprofits, local governments, and individuals. You can follow this link to see some of the other matters they are handling. Jennifer Sass has researched the organization and found them to be totally legitimate.
Democracy Forward has continued to follow the legal developments on the issue of the Potomac River closure and CCA’s well publicized stand, and is surprised that despite receiving over 600 comments, the Coast Guard has not revised or finalized its policy. Nitan Shah, Senior Counsel of Democracy Forward, thinks this matter is ripe for a legal challenge.
This is the basic legal argument: The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requires the government to solicit comments before it takes an action like the Potomac Security Zone rule. Once the agency receives comments, it is required to consider those comments and address them in its final decision to ensure that individuals and groups that could be adversely affected have an opportunity to be heard. Their interests are to be taken into account before the agency makes its decision. The Coast Guard's failure to do that is further exacerbated by the fact that nearly a year has passed since they solicited comments and they still have not responded, on the record, or adjusted the rule based on those comments.
The Administrative Procedure Act lets an aggrieved party file a civil suit to ensure that the agency follows the rules. The relief the lawsuit would seek is to require the Coast Guard to consider the several hundred comments received on its security zone rule and issue a final rule that gives paddlers and the groups that represent them the legal right to use the river. Currently, there is informal and variable accommodation that is left to the discretion of law enforcement on any given day.
The steps that would occur should CCA decide to join the lawsuit and possible time-frames are:
- CCAapproves participation
- CCA and Democracy Forward sign an engagement letter, which basically says that Democracy Forward is representing CCA in this matter. The letter will confirm that Democracy Forward's representation is pro bono and Democracy Forward will handle all costs.
- Democracy Forward will try to line up additional groups and individuals that use that section of the Potomac to join the suit.
- Nitin Shah, Senior Counsel, will draft the complaint. The complaint is primarily a short and plain statement of the legal claims, but it will be helpful to briefly tell the stories of the groups and individuals affected. Most of this is already written down in the history of the organization, its mission and educational efforts, and how it has been harmed by the river closure. CCA’s position is also well documented in the Washington Post, New York Times, and in interviews by the various TV channels and radio stations. Nitin will ask CCA to review the relevant portions of the complaint. Democracy Forward will file the lawsuit early mid-July.
- The proceedings will likely consist of legal briefs and potentially a hearing. Because this case largely turns on legal, and not factual, questions, it is unlikely that live testimony from any plaintiffs or witnesses will be required.
Democracy Forward is eager to get moving on this.
Nitan can be reached at:
Democracy Forward Foundation