California Stops Legal Land Use on Federal Land - Constitutional Rights at Stake, SCOTUS to Consider
ATLANTA, GA/WASHINGTON, DC (Feb. 27, 2017): Southeastern Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court urging the court to take the case of Rinehart v. California and stop overzealous states from violating the Constitution and our country’s core principles of federalism.
As the Trump administration seeks to lift burdensome regulations, left-leaning states are digging in their heels for a fight. Yet even before President Trump took office, California asserted excessive control over federal lands within its borders when prosecutors convicted gold miner Brandon Rinehart of misdemeanors for mining his federally recognized mining claims on federal land in California. His offense? Use of a suction dredge, a small-scale, commonplace mining tool used to mine gold in rivers and streams.
As SLF points out in its amicus brief, the General Mining Law of 1872, a federal law which states that mining for valuable minerals on federal land is an allowed and even encouraged activity, preempts any contradictory state laws. Not only is federal preemption a critical issue to the system of federalism set in place by the Founders, but it also allows the federal government to operate freely within its limited areas of control. Even though our Constitution leaves most powers to the states, Mr. Rinehart’s case is an opportunity for the Court to stop rogue states from circumventing valid federal laws in areas over which the federal government has clear authority and control.