Stringfellow v. Concerned Neighbors in Action

480 U. S. 370

March 9, 1987

Worried by a local hazardous waste site, a group of busybodies banded together and called themselves Concerned Neighbors in Action (CNA). CNA moved to be joined as a party in a lawsuit the United States was conducting against the waste site. The District Court ruled that CNA did not have a right to intervene, but permitted them to intervene anyway with some tight restrictions placed on its participation in the suit. CNA tried to appeal this decision immediately.

Unanimously, the Court smacked down CNA’s attempt at interlocutory appeal. Powell explained that decisions on intervention are only appealable after final judgment in the case, unless the issue would be  non-reviewable at that later stage. As a party, CNA retained full rights to appeal the intervention decision once a final ruling had been made on the hazardous waste site. CNA argued that courts would be reluctant to disturb such a final judgment afterward. In response, the Court essentially said ‘tough sh!t, pals.’ Powell also slapped down the argument that the restrictions placed on CNA’s participation effectively amounted to a denial of intervention (Brennan and Marshall concurred, but did not join this part).

Brennan, joined by Marshall, wrote to point out that in the absence of an immediate appeal, CNA did have the right to seek a writ of mandamus. He also felt the argument that the restrictions on participation effectively denied intervention proved far too much, since even parties with a right of intervention could validly have restrictions placed on their appeals rights. All in all, a very good day – gotta love it when the Court unanimously pwns irritating busybodies.

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