Winter v. NRDC (Injunctive Relief)


U.S. Supreme Court

NAHB Involvement


This case concerned the issuance of court injunctions to stop projects that may have some undefined effect on protected species. Here, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction to stop U.S. Navy training missions, due to alleged effects of sonar on certain whales and other endangered species. The Ninth Circuit only required the "mere possibility of irreparable injury" to stop the project.

On Nov. 12, 2008, in its first ruling of the 2008-2009 term, the Supreme Court, agreeing with NAHB's amicus brief, concluded that the Ninth Circuit had abused its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction. Vacating the injunction, the Court majority (in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts) reasoned that a preliminary injunction based solely on the mere "possibility" of irreparable harm is "too lenient" a standard. A plaintiff seeking preliminary relief must demonstrate that "irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction." The Court further ruled that the court below should have deferred to the Executive Branch's conclusion that conducting naval training exercises under the constraints in the injunction compromised the more-important public interest in military preparedness, and the balance of the equities points toward the same result.

The favorable ruling assists builders in resisting disruptive preliminary and permanent injunctions when environmental groups file suit challenging land-use activities and business operations grounded on undefined and unknown injuries to wildlife. NAHB's participation in this matter is now complete.