Press Release May 5, 2022
After Major Trial Court Victory for Coastal Fisheries, Appellate Court Hears State’s Request for “Immunity” from Lawsuit
A three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard arguments last week in the lawsuit brought by a group of 86 citizen plaintiffs and the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina to hold the State accountable for perpetuating the long-running, ongoing decline of North Carolina’s coastal fisheries.
Last summer, in a major victory for coastal fisheries, the trial court rejected all the State’s arguments and sided with the plaintiffs in a preliminary ruling that allowed the lawsuit to move forward. Last Tuesday, however, the State asked the Court of Appeals for “sovereign immunity” from the lawsuit, arguing that the State should not be held accountable and that it should not have to defend the case on the merits.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs and CCA NC pushed back forcefully, outlining how the State is fully accountable under North Carolina’s public trust doctrine and the North Carolina Constitution’s Fishing Rights Amendment, adding that no court in American history has ever done what the State is asking the Court of Appeals to do in this case. As explained by the plaintiffs’ legal team, the State’s request for absolute immunity amounts to an outdated argument that “the King can do no wrong,” in which case the public trust doctrine, which has protected coastal fisheries and other public trust resources for centuries, would be rendered meaningless.
The Court’s decision is expected sometime later this year.
CCA NC is firmly committed to the belief that all citizens-including conservation groups, public anglers, consumers, commercial fishermen, seafood dealers, and the recreational fishing industry-will benefit from working with the State and its agencies to make the long-term health and viability of North Carolina’s coastal fisheries a top priority.
To read more about the lawsuit and find out how you can help, please visit our website: Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina | CCA NC
The lead attorneys in the lawsuit are Keith Johnson and Drew Erteschik at Poyner Spruill LLP, who will work closely with Dr. Tim Nifong, CCA NC’s General Counsel.
There are at least three ways you can assist in this fight:
First, you can contribute to the legal fund for this lawsuit. 100% of your contribution will go toward funding the legal costs of the lawsuit.
Second, you can potentially join the lawsuit as a co-plaintiff. While there are rules that must be followed, any state citizen who fishes on the coast, or any environmental non-profit organization, public saltwater fishing organization, or environmental justice organization that operates in North Carolina and has in interest in halting the demise of state public-trust fisheries resources is welcome to join our lawsuit. To find out more about joining the suit, contact David Sneed at email@example.com.
Third, you can become a member of CCA NC by clicking the “join the fight!” link below, joining with other conservationists to solidify the voice for change with respect to responsible public fisheries resource management.
Read the full complaint here: