I’m reading through the decision.Â Preliminary injunctions like this usually aren’t issued unless there’s a high probability of the plaintiff prevailing on the merits of the case, and the plaintiff also has to show a likelihood of irreparable harm.Â At least that’s my understanding.Â The heart of the decision in this case says:
Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffsâ€™ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to enjoin implementation of the Final Rule. Because the Court finds that the Final Rule is the product of Defendantsâ€™ astoundingly flawed process, the Court holds that Plaintiffs are highly likely to prevail on the merits of their NEPA claims. The Court also holds that Plaintiffs have 4 met their burden to show a likelihood of irreparable harm, the absence of significant harm to other interested persons or entities, and that the public interest weighs in favor of preliminary injunctive relief. Having balanced all of these considerations and found that they weigh in favor of issuing a preliminary injunction, the Court shall GRANT Plaintiffsâ€™ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.
The decision goes on many pages discussing why the injunction is warranted, and I don’t honestly have suffiicient expertise to offer much.Â The injunction essentially views the DOI’s application of a categorical exclusion of this rule as arbitrary and capricious:
This Courtâ€™s function is to â€œensure that the agency has adequately considered and disclosed the environmental impact of its actions and that its decision is not arbitrary or capricious.â€ City of Olmsted Falls, Ohio v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 292 F.3d 261, 269 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The scope of this review includes an inquiry into whether the agency has made its decision based on â€œa consideration of the relevant factsâ€ and whether it has â€œfailed to consider an important aspectâ€ of the issues associated with its decision. Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Assâ€™n, 463 U.S. at 43. Defendantsâ€™ failure to apply the correct standard by which to consider environmental impactsâ€“by examining what the Final Rule authorized as opposed to the foreseeable consequences that would occur as a result of the Final Ruleâ€“is sufficient by itself to render the DOIâ€™s decision to invoke a categorical exclusion arbitrary and capricious.
I definitely get the feeling in reading this decision that the judge in question doesn’t like, at all, the idea of guns being allowed in national parks, and sees it as inherently an environemntal concern, which I do not.Â But that’s not to say the judge is wrong as a matter of law.
Plaintiffs emphasize that the DOI failed to distinguish its previous position that gun restrictions were a â€œbasic mechanism . . . to protect the natural and cultural resources of the parks [and wildlife refuges] and to protect visitors and property within the parks.â€ Pls.â€™ Mot. at 26-27 (quoting 48 Fed. Reg. at 30252). Plaintiffs argue that the DOIâ€™s â€œonly mention of the prior rules was a description of how they operated,â€ Pls.â€™ Mot. at 26, and that this brief mention was insufficient to justify a reversal of its previous position. Id. at 25.
The D.C. Circuit has repeatedly explained that an agencyâ€™s unexplained â€œ180 degree turn away from [precedent is] arbitrary and capricious,â€ and that an agencyâ€™s decision â€œto reverse its position in the face of a precedent it has not persuasively distinguished is quintessentially arbitrary and capricious.â€ La. Pub. Serv. Commâ€™n v. Fed. Energy Regulatory Commâ€™n, 184 F.3d 892, 897 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (citing Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Assâ€™n, 463 U.S. at 57) (â€œ[a]n agencyâ€™s view of what is in the public interest may change, either with or without a change in circumstances. But an agency changing its course must supply a reasoned analysisâ€). â€œâ€˜[T]he core concern underlying the prohibition of arbitrary and capricious agency actionâ€™ is that agency â€˜ad hoceryâ€™ is impermissible.â€
Ramaprakash v. Fed. Aviation Admin. & Natâ€™l Transp. Safety Bd., 346 F.3d 1121, 1130 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Pacific N.W. Newspaper Guild, Local 82 v. Natâ€™l Labor Relations Bd., 877 F.2d 998, 1003 (D.C. Cir. 1989)). See also ANR Pipeline Co. v. Fed. Energy Regulatory Commâ€™n, 71 F.3d 897, 901 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (â€œWhere an agency departs from established precedent without a reasoned explanation, its decision will be vacated as arbitrary and capricious.â€).
The good thing in all this is that the court granted NRA’s Motion to Interveine, meaning it will be NRA lawyers filing the appeal rather than Obama Administration lawyers.Â I will leave the arguments as to why this injunction was improperly issued to people better trained in these matters than I.