June 2012

Governor’s Proposal May Ease CEQA Standards For High-Speed Rail

Earlier in June, Governor Brown’s office proposed new legislation that would restrict the ability of opponents to California’s $69 billion high-speed rail project to stop the project through CEQA litigation, in addition to other CEQA changes.   The proposal would require the courts to consider additional employment and economic factors in weighing whether to grant an injunction halting construction of the project.  Absent a finding that the value of the Project’s potential environmental damage would exceed the potential loss of more than $2 billion in federal funds secured for the project, judges would be prohibited from enjoining construction.  The proposal would also ease other CEQA rules for the project.  Several groups and municipalities have already filed suit in the Central Valley challenging the Project (some to stop the project, others to realign the project into their city).  Currently, the proposal is included in a trailer bill which has yet to be included in the Governor’s draft budget, but has been circulated among environmental groups and others.  Not surprisingly, these environmental groups have expressed vehement opposition to the proposal.  Its fate remains to be seen.

Spontaneous Wedding? Stick with Vegas

In Kaahumanu v. State of Hawaii, the Ninth Circuit rejected plaintiff’s constitutional challenge and upheld a regulation requiring commercial wedding vendors to obtain a permit before conducting weddings on public beaches in Hawaii.  (Click here to read the opinion in Kaahumanu v. State of Hawaii, 2012 DJDAR 7472 (9th Cir. 2012).)  The permit requirement eliminates the possibility of holding spontaneous weddings on Hawaii beaches, but the Court found there was no undue burden placed on protected speech because there no real interest in conducting such weddings in Hawaii and because it satisfied the criteria for a reasonable time, place and manner restriction on protected speech in a public forum.  The Court distinguished the case factually from its recent decision in Berger v. City of Seattle, 569 F.3d 1029 (9th Cir. 2009) where it invalidated a regulation requiring street performers to obtain permits before performing in the public grounds of the Seattle Center, in part because it precluded all spontaneous speech by performers from the Center grounds.  This decision highlights some of the limits of the Berger decision and reiterates the general rule that the constitutionality of regulations affecting protected speech is heavily dependent on the particular factual situation before the court.