Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 542 U.S. 55 (2004), was a Supreme Court case that held that although the Administrative Procedure Act says that a person may challenge an agency's failure to act, this provision essentially just carries forward the writ of mandamus. Thus an agency cannot be compelled to act unless there is some non-discretionary, discrete act. Therefore, in this case, an interest group could not challenge an agency's failure to "act so as to preserve the wilderness" in accordance with the statute.

Norton v. S. Utah Wilderness Alliance
Argued March 29, 2004
Decided June 14, 2004
Full case nameGale Norton, Secretary of the Interior, et al. v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance et al.
Docket no.03-101
Citations542 U.S. 55 (more)
124 S. Ct. 2373; 159 L. Ed. 2d 137
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinion
MajorityScalia, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
Administrative Procedure Act 702, 704, 706.


Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the federal Bureau of Land Management is required to manage "2.5 million acres of land in Utah" called "wilderness study areas." The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other environmentalist groups filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act, compelling the government to act when "an agency has failed to meet its legal duties." The Wilderness Alliance claimed that the Bureau of Land Management had failed to adequately protect the study areas and that the bureau permitted off-road vehicle use that damaged the study areas, violating the act passed by Congress in 1976.[1]


  1. "Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance 542 US 55 (2004)". Oyez: Chicago-Kent College of Law. Retrieved 8 December 2013.

See also

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