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Individuals for Responsible Gov't v. Washoe County

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 21029
Nos. 95-17264, 110 F.3d 699/(9th Cir., 04/01/1997)

The court upholds Nevada county ordinances requiring landowners either to subscribe to a particular garbage collection service or to haul their garbage to an approved disposal site every seven days. The ordinances also required all landowners that cannot prove that they properly disposed of their own waste on a weekly basis to pay for the service, regardless of whether or not they use it. The court first holds that plaintiff organization lacks standing to claim that the ordinances violates the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, because the organization apparently lacks both purpose and members. The court next holds that the plaintiff landowners have met the constitutional requirements for standing. They have suffered injury-in-fact by being ordered to pay a bill for services they do not want, there is a direct causal link between enactment of the challenged ordinances and the alleged injury, and a declaration that the ordinances are unconstitutional would clearly redress their injuries. However, the court holds that they have not met the prudential requirements for standing, because their alleged injury is not even marginally related to the purposes underlying the dormant Commerce Clause. Although the ordinances have had the effect of reducing the flow of garbage from Nevada to California and thus have imposed a small barrier to interstate commerce, the landowners' injury would still exist even if the service were to dump all of the garbage it collects from Nevada in California. Under those circumstances, the ordinances would impose no barrier to interstate commerce. Therefore, the landowners' complaint is not within the zone of interests to be protected by the Commerce Clause. The court next holds that the service's curbside recycling service cannot be considered an unconstitutional "taking" of recyclable materials, because residents have no obligation to use that service. Nor is the monthly recycling service charge a taking; rather, it is equivalent to a general property tax targeted to fund a specific countywide service. Finally, the court holds that the county did not exceed its police powers in enacting the ordinances. The ordinances were within the scope of the authority granted the county by the state government, aimed at serving some legitimate public purpose, and rationally related to that purpose.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Marc Picker
Law Offices of Marc Picker
417 W. Plumb La., Reno NV 89504
(702) 324-4533

Counsel for Defendants
Frank Cassas
Marshall, Hill, Cassas & de Lipkau
Holcomb Professional Bldg.
333 Holcomb Ave., Ste. 300, Reno NV 89505
(702) 323-1601

Before SNEED, LEAVY, and THOMAS, Circuit Judges.