People v. Rinehart, S222620

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation377 P.3d 818,206 Cal.Rptr.3d 571,1 Cal.5th 652
Decision Date22 August 2016
Docket NumberS222620
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Brandon Lance RINEHART, Defendant and Appellant.

1 Cal.5th 652
377 P.3d 818
206 Cal.Rptr.3d 571

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent
Brandon Lance RINEHART, Defendant and Appellant.


Supreme Court of California

Filed August 22, 2016

1 Cal.5th 820

Murphy & Buchal and James L. Buchal for Defendant and Appellant.

Damien M. Schiff, James S. Burling and Jonathan Wood, Sacramento, for Pacific Legal Foundation, Western Mining Alliance and Siskiyou County as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Parsons Behle & Latimer, Brook B. Bond, L. Michael Bogert ; Mountain States Legal Foundation, Steven J. Lechner and Jeffrey W. McCoy for American Exploration & Mining Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

206 Cal.Rptr.3d 574

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Edward C. DuMont, State Solicitor General, Mark J. Breckler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Robert W. Byrne, Assistant Attorney General, Joshua A. Klein, Deputy State Solicitor General, Gavin G. McCabe, Michael M. Edson, Marc N. Melnick and J. Kyle Mast, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Jonathan Evans, Studio City; Saxton & Associates and Lynne R. Saxton for Karuk Tribe, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the River, Klamath Riverkeeper, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Environmental Law Foundation, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Foothill Angler's Coalition, North Fork American River Alliance, Upper American River Foundation and Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Sean B. Hecht, Los Angeles, and Eric Biber for John D. Leshy and Alejandro E. Camacho as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General, and Lane N. McFadden for The United States as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Werdegar, J.

1 Cal.5th 657

California was shaped by the search for gold. In time, the state's other natural treasures—its waters and wildlife, its forests and coastlines—proved similar draws. We consider here a conflict arising from the competing desires to exploit and to preserve these various resources. The People assert the state may, in pursuit of protecting fish habitats and the quality of the state's waterways, temporarily ban a particular method of gold mining pending adoption of suitable regulations. Defendant Brandon Lance Rinehart, convicted of engaging in the banned mining technique, asserts it is the only practicable method and federal law promoting mining on federal land preempts the state's contrary legislation. The Court of Appeal concluded Rinehart potentially was correct and remanded for consideration of additional evidence and argument. We granted the People's petition for review.

We conclude the state's moratorium is not preempted. The federal laws Rinehart relies upon reflect a congressional intent to afford prospectors secure possession of, and in some instances title to, the places they mine. But while Congress sought to protect miners' real property interests, it did not go further and guarantee to them a right to mine immunized from exercises of the states' police powers. We reverse the Court of Appeal.

Factual and Procedural Background

Suction dredging is a technique used by miners to remove matter from the bottom of waterways, extract minerals, and return the residue to the water. A high-powered suction hose vacuums loose material from the bottom of a streambed. Heavier matter, including gold, is separated at the surface by passage through a floating sluice box, and the excess water, sand, and gravel is discharged back into the waterway. (See Fish & G. Code, § 5653, subd. (g) ; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 14, § 228 ; People v. Osborn (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 764, 768, 11 Cal.Rptr.3d 14 ;

1 Cal.5th 658

Karuk Tribe of California v. U. S. Forest Service (9th Cir. 2012) 681 F.3d 1006, 1012 (en banc).)

California has regulated suction dredging for the last half-century. As originally enacted, Fish and Game Code section 5653 authorized the Department of Fish and Game, now known as the Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department), to issue permits for suction dredging, so long as it

206 Cal.Rptr.3d 575

determined the dredging would not harm fish. Operation of a

1 Cal.5th 821

suction dredge without, or in violation of the terms of, a permit was a misdemeanor. (Stats. 1961, ch. 1816, § 1, p. 3864.) Later amendments gave the Department authority to designate particular waterways off-limits to suction dredging (Stats. 1975, ch. 785, § 1, p. 1807) and made possession of a suction dredge near such waters unlawful (Stats. 1986, ch. 1368, § 23, pp. 4896–4897).

Responding to concerns that suction dredging disturbed endangered coho salmon habitats and contributed to mercury contamination of both fish and humans, in 2009 the Legislature imposed a temporary moratorium on the issuance of dredging permits pending further environmental review by the Department. (Stats. 2009, ch. 62, § 1, adding Fish & G. Code, former § 5653.1; see Sen. Com. on Water, Parks & Wildlife, 3d reading analysis of Sen. Bill No. 670 (2009–2010 Reg. Sess.) as amended June 26, 2009, pp. 3–5.) The moratorium went into immediate effect based on legislative findings that “suction or vacuum dredge mining results in various adverse environmental impacts to protected fish species, the water quality of this state, and the health of the people of this state.” (Stats. 2009, ch. 62, § 2.) Two years later, in 2011, the Legislature placed a June 30, 2016, sunset on the moratorium in the event environmental review and new regulations were not complete by that date. (Stats. 2011, ch. 133, § 6.) The following year, the Department finished its environmental review but concluded it lacked regulatory authority to address fully the environmental impacts of suction dredging. (See Stats. 2015, ch. 680, § 1, subd. (c).) The Legislature removed the 2016 sunset (Stats. 2012, ch. 39, § 7) and in 2015 enacted legislation clarifying the scope of the Department's and other state agencies' regulatory authority (Stats. 2015, ch. 680, §§ 2, 4). The moratorium on permits remains in place.

In 2012, defendant Brandon Rinehart was charged by criminal complaint with both possession and unpermitted use of a suction dredge. (Fish & G. Code, § 5653, former subds. (a), (d), recodified as subds. (a), (e) by Stats. 2015, ch. 680, § 2.) He demurred to the complaint. Rinehart sought judicial notice of documents showing, and the People eventually stipulated, that he was operating on a mining claim he held on federal land in the Plumas National Forest. Federal law “allow[s] United States citizens to go onto unappropriated, unreserved public land to prospect for and develop certain minerals. ‘Discovery’ of a mineral deposit, followed by the minimal procedures required to formally ‘locate’ the deposit, gives an individual the right of

1 Cal.5th 659

exclusive possession of the land for mining purposes,” i.e., a mining claim. (United States v. Locke (1985) 471 U.S. 84, 86, 105 S.Ct. 1785, 85 L.Ed.2d 64.) Such a claim may apply to a lode or placer,1 and may be patented or unpatented.2 Rinehart holds an unpatented placer claim.

In his demurrer, Rinehart contended section 5653 and the related temporary

206 Cal.Rptr.3d 576

moratorium statute, Fish and Game Code section 5653.1, effectively banned suction dredging in California, preventing Rinehart from using the only commercially practicable method of extracting gold from his mining claim. Because, according to Rinehart, Congress had granted prospectors the right to mine on federal land free from material interference (see 30 U.S.C. §§ 22, 612(b) ), these provisions should be preempted as an obstacle to Congress's purposes and objectives.

After a hearing, the trial court overruled the demurrer. Having rejected as a matter of law the preemption defense, the court also excluded testimony Rinehart would have presented in support of that defense. Rinehart waived a jury. After a bench trial on stipulated

1 Cal.5th 822

facts, the court convicted Rinehart on both counts and sentenced him to three years' probation.

The Court of Appeal reversed. The court agreed with Rinehart that federal mining law should be interpreted as preempting any state law that unduly hampers mining on federal land. The court further concluded Rinehart had made a colorable argument that (1) the state regulatory scheme amounted to a de facto ban on suction dredging and (2) this ban rendered mining on his claim “ ‘commercially impracticable.’ ” (Quoting California Coastal Comm'n v. Granite Rock Co. (1987) 480 U.S. 572, 587, 107 S.Ct. 1419, 94 L.Ed.2d 577 (Granite Rock ).)...

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  • People v. Rinehart
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 22, 2016
    ...1 Cal.5th 652377 P.3d 818206 Cal.Rptr.3d 571 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondentv.Brandon Lance RINEHART, Defendant and Appellant.S222620Supreme Court of CaliforniaFiled August 22, 20161 Cal.5th 820 Murphy & Buchal and James L. Buchal for Defendant and Appellant.Damien M. Schiff, James S. ......

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