California Rules of Court: New Rule 8.701 re: California Environmental Quality Act Affecting “Leadership” Project Filings - Effective July 1, 2014 (Part I)

Alaine Patti-Jelsvik, Esq. Effective July 1, 2014, California Rules of Court, Rules 8.700, et seq. severely shortened and tightened filing and service requirements and procedure for appellate relief in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) cases. (Please note that the rules under 8.700, et seq. only apply to “leadership” projects and not to the CEQA cases in general.)

In 2011, California AB 900, the Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Environmental Leadership Act, was passed to streamline resolution of California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) challenges to California’s key construction (specifically designed “leadership projects”) which are required to meet specific environmental standards. (Judicial Council, CEQA Actions: Rules to Implement Senate Bill 743, Invitation to Comment W14-02). To accomplish this, AB 900 gave the Court of Appeal direct and immediate jurisdiction to review such CEQA challenges, filed as Petitions for Writ Relief, and required complete resolution within 175 days, with the intent to keep key California construction projects moving, while assuring compliance with the CEQA. (Id., citing Cal. Pub. Res. Code, § 21185, et seq. and § 21178(i)).

However, AB 900 itself came under judicial scrutiny, and an Alameda County Trial Court Judge, the Honorable Frank Roesch, ruled that restricting CEQA challenges to appellate writ relief was unconstitutional as it deprived the Superior Courts and Supreme Court, which violated original jurisdiction under Article 6, section 10 of the California Constitution. (Planning and Conservation League, et al. v. State of California and the California State Controller, Case No. RG12-626904).

In response, the Legislature went back to work and came up with Senate Bill 743 (SB 743), with new rules and amendments intended to bring the process into constitutional compliance. On April 25, 2014, the Judicial Counsel set forth the changes that became effective on July 1, 2014.

While the rules still specifically expedite CEQA lawsuits on large “environmental leadership projects” as defined under California Public Resource Code, section 21180(b), the new timeline requires resolution, including an appeal, within 270 days of certification of the administrative record, excluding review by the Supreme Court of California.

California Appellate Rule 8.701, regarding filing and service of documents on appeal, went into effect on July 1, 2014. In Part II of this article, I will cover the important shortened timeframes that impact a CEQA appeal.

If you have any questions or need assistance with preparing and filing your appeal, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Counsel Press provides a full spectrum of appellate services. My colleagues and I at Counsel Press’ office in Los Angeles specialize in rule-compliant appellate filings (including electronic filings and electronic submissions) in the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.

Tagged: Appellate Practice, Appellate Procedure, Supreme Court of California, Litigation