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A quick summary of Monsanto decision

Today the Court issued its decision in Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms (No. 09-475).  We will have a more detailed recap of the opinion soon, but we thought it would be useful in the interim to provide a brief summary of the decision (and an introduction to the myriad acronyms in the case).  [You can read Josh Patashnik’s pre-argument discussion of the case here.]  At issue in the case was what injunctive relief a district court may order to remedy a procedural violation of a federal environmental statute – here, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Here the district court had held that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) violated the NEPA when it deregulated Roundup Ready Alfalfa (RRA) without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  As a remedy, the district court enjoined APHIS from partially deregulating RRA, and it prohibited virtually all planting of RRA pending a new EIS.

The Court granted certiorari, and today it reversed.  It began by rejecting both sides’ arguments that the other lacked standing.  Turning to the merits of the case, it held that the district court abused its discretion in entering the injunctions.  With regard to the partial deregulation of RRA, it explained that none of the four criteria for a permanent injunction had been met; moreover, with regard to the nationwide injunction against the planting of RRA, a less drastic remedy was available.

Justice Stevens was the lone dissenter in the case; Justice Breyer did not participate in the case.