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Sierra Club v. Butz

Citation: 2 ELR 20698
No. No. C-72 1115 AJZ, 349 F. Supp. 934/4 ERC 1673/(N.D. Cal., 10/17/1972)

The court dismisses a counterclaim by Humboldt Fir, a logging company, against the Sierra Club, which had sought an injunction against logging in a national forest near the Salmon-Trinity Alps Primitive Area in Northern California pending a review of the area for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Humboldt alleges liability under state tort law for interference with advantageous relationship, as its business is based in part on logs it would cut in the affected area. Sierra Club moves to have the counterclaim dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted, citing the First Amendment guarantee of the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances. The court holds that there is no relevance as to whether there was malice in Sierra Club's action. Finding analogies in Supreme Court decisions on defamation and Sherman Act prosecutions, the malice standard is found to be superceded by the question of whether the petitioning is a sham, with the real purpose not to obtain governmental action, but to otherwise injure Humboldt.

Counsel for Sierra Club (Plaintiff and Cross-Defendant)
John D. Hoffman
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund
311 California Street, Suite 311
San Francisco, California 94104

Counsel for Humboldt Fir, Inc. (Cross-Plaintiff)
Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro
Standard Oil Building
225 Bush Street
San Francisco, California 94104