In August of 2009, California imposed a moratorium on instream suction dredge mining in the state, and barred the California Department of Fish and Wildlife from issuing any new suction dredge permits to operators.
On August 30, 2012, the District Attorney of Plumas County filed a criminal complaint charging Mr. Rinehart, a small miner who owns placer mining claims within the Plumas National Forest, with a violation of California’s criminal code, alleging that he used suction dredge equipment in a river, stream, or lake, without a permit and that he possessed a suction dredge within an area closed to the use of that equipment.
Mr. Rinehart admitted to using suction dredge equipment on his claims but argued that the California law was preempted by federal law. He waived his right to a jury trial and made an offer of proof, to wit, expert testimony that the only commercially viable means of extracting his minerals is by suction dredge mining.
In May of 2013, the district court conducted the trial, found Mr. Rinehart guilty of the criminal charges, ruled the ban was constitutional, and excluded the expert testimony. In September of 2014, the California Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the district court. In November of 2014, California filed a Petition for Review of the Court of Appeal’s decision with the California Supreme Court. Over the objections of Mr. Rinehart, on January 21, 2015, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
On March 23, 2015, California filed its opening brief. On April 22, 2015, Mr. Rinehart filed his response brief. On June 11, 2015, California filed its reply brief. On July 10, 2015, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA) and in support of Mr. Rinehart. On August 31, 2015 the United States filed an amicus curiae brief in support of California.
On January 27, 2016, the California Supreme Court requested additionally briefing regarding the effects of California Senate Bill No. 637. Both parties filed briefs in response to the Court’s inquiry on February 16, 2016. On April 21, 2016, California filed a notice of supplemental authority regarding a case from the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. Mr. Rinehart filed a response on April 28, 2016. Oral argument was held on June 1, 2016. On August 22, 2016, the California Supreme Court upheld Mr.
On February 2, 2017, Mr. Rinehart filed a petition for writ of certiorari. On March 8, 2017, MSLF filed a petition in support of Mr. Rinehart on behalf of the American Exploration & Mining Association. On May 15, 2017, the Supreme Court invited a brief from the Acting Solicitor General “expressing the views of the United States.”