- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2002

An evenly divided Supreme Court upheld a judgment yesterday against a California farmer who accused the government of going overboard to protect wetlands.
The Supreme Court, on a 4-4 vote, affirmed Angelo Tsakopoulos' punishment for converting wetlands into vineyards and orchards without a federal pollution permit.
The vote worried some environmental activists who fear that the court could use another farm case later to limit the government's oversight of wetlands.
"It's a reprieve, but we shouldn't dance too hard into the night. It does show the protections are quite fragile," said Tim Searchinger, a lawyer for Environmental Defense.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency determined that Mr. Tsakopoulos' Borden Ranch violated the Clean Water Act of 1972. He was ordered to pay $500,000 in fines and restore 4 acres of wetlands.
His attorney argued before the Supreme Court last week that Mr. Tsakopoulos had been wrongly punished.
One member of the court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, did not participate in the case because he knows Mr. Tsakopoulos. Judge Kennedy also is from California.
The remaining eight court members were equally divided, the justices said. They did not announce the breakdown of the vote and did not issue a signed opinion.
"Had Justice Kennedy been able to participate in this case, we quite likely would have won it," said Timothy S. Bishop of Chicago, one of Mr. Tsakopoulos' attorneys.
Mr. Tsakopoulos, of Galt, Calif., wanted the court to rule that farmers do not need the same pollution permits to plow fields that developers need to build such things as factories. At issue is the use of a "deep ripping" plow that punctures the soil to a depth of 6 feet. Deep ripping is a common farming practice to prepare orchards for planting.
Also yesterday, the Supreme Court refused to consider shielding states from lawsuits over unequal pay for people in the same job.
The justices turned back an appeal from a Texas college, which must pay damages to a female professor who sued under a 1963 federal law requiring employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work. The college contended that states cannot be sued in federal court under the Equal Pay Act because states have constitutional protection.

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