July 10, 2019: Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of Navy veteran Joe Robertson, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay $130,000 in fines after he dug fire-fighting ponds near his home in Montana. Sadly, Joe passed away in March, but his wife, Carri Robertson, continued his legal battle.
“We are very pleased that the Ninth Circuit agreed that Joe’s convictions should be vacated and very pleased for Carri, who will no longer have a $130,000 federal judgment hanging over her head,” said Tony Francois, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “It has been an honor to represent Joe and now to be able to complete his vindication on behalf of his wife, Carri.”
Federal regulators said that Robertson polluted a “navigable water” — a small ditch with a trickle of water — when he dug the ponds. The Environmental Protection Agency said the ditch was a federally protected waterway under the Clean Water Act and required a federal permit — even though his home is 40 miles from the nearest navigable waterway.
In April, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Joe Robertson’s petition to review his Clean Water Act convictions, and immediately vacated the Ninth Circuit’s judgment in the case and sent it back to the Ninth Circuit for further review.