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United States v. Pauley

ELR Citation: 33 ELR 20158
Nos. No. 01-2107, (6th Cir., 02/24/2003)

The court reverses a district court decision vacating a $25,000 fine against two individuals that violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) by trenching, grading, and filling wetlands without a permit. After having been found guilty of violating the CWA and being ordered by a district court to allow access to the property for restoration work but refusing to do so, the individuals were fined $25,000. Despite the court order, the individuals continued to refuse to allow anyone on the property to perform restoration work. At a hearing before a different district court judge, the judge sua sponte vacated the fines against the individuals and appeared to succeed in convincing them to comply with the previous court order. The judge erred in vacating the fines against the individuals. The judge relieved the individuals from a final judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6). A district court may not sua sponte grant relief from fines under Rule 60(b)(6) because the rule specifically requires relief to occur on motion. Here, no motion for Rule 60(b) relief was made. Additionally, even if the district court had the authority to vacate the order, district courts should not use their authority under Rule 60(b) to reward parties' contempt of prior orders. Although the district court's apparent purpose was to remedy the violations of the CWA, which was appropriate, no further remedy was necessary. The problem was not that the parties failed to agree on an appropriate resolution, but that the individuals had failed to fulfill their court-ordered obligations.

Jennifer J. Peregord, Ass’t U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney’s Office
211 W. Fort St., Ste. 2300, Detroit MI 48226
(313) 226-9100

Counsel for Defendant
Alice Pauley, pro se
1273 Kloap Rd., Muskegon MI 49441
(231) 780-5027