Atlantic States Legal Foundation v. Buffalo Envelope, A Division of American Envelope Co.

823 F. Supp. 1065 (1993)

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Atlantic States Legal Foundation v. Buffalo Envelope, A Division of American Envelope Co.

United States District Court for the Western District of New York
823 F. Supp. 1065 (1993)

Facts

The Atlantic States Legal Foundation, Inc. (Atlantic) (plaintiff) sued Buffalo Envelope (Buffalo) (defendant) using the citizen-suit provision of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The citizen-suit provision allowed private entities to obtain civil penalties from violators; the penalties were paid into the United States Treasury. Under the EPCRA, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had the discretion to initiate a suit against the alleged violator at any time. The EPA administrator could also intervene in the citizen suit. However, a private citizen could not begin an action once the administrator decided to prosecute a violator. Buffalo argued that the citizen-suit provisions violated constitutional provisions providing for separation of powers by allowing public rights to be enforced by private individuals. Atlantic argued that the principle of separation of powers extended to the legislative branch, the executive branch, or the judicial branch, but not to private entities. In Buckley v. Valeo, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the structure of the Federal Election Commission, which included two members of Congress and two members appointed by Congress, violated separation-of-powers principles. The Supreme Court stated that civil-litigation functions could be discharged only by officers of the United States. Other Supreme Court cases also invalidated efforts by Congress to use its appointment power to participate in executive functions. However, these cases did not involve citizen suits by private parties.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Skretny, J.)

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