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Decided: July 14, 2014

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s, Incorporated (“CBF”), untimely motion to intervene as a defendant.

Plaintiff sued the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) seeking declaratory relief in connection with EPA’s administrative enforcement proceedings. In the latter stages of Alt’s litigation, Appellant, CBF, motioned to intervene as a defendant. The district court denied CBF’s intervention motion as untimely, which CBF appealed.

After a second modified scheduling order, the district court ordered that all plaintiffs file any summary judgment motions by a specified date. The next day, CBF first appeared in the litigation, and asserted its right to intervene pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (F.R.C.P.) 24(a), and, alternatively, sought permission to intervene under F.R.C.P. Rule 24(b). The district court denied CBF’s motion to intervene solely on the grounds that CBF’s motion was filed untimely, and would, “by [its] very nature . . . unduly delay the adjudication of the original parties’ rights.”

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit stated that “[i]n order to properly determine whether a motion to intervene in a civil action is sufficiently timely, a trial court in this Circuit is obliged to assess three factors: first, how far the underlying suit has progressed; second, the prejudice any resulting delay might cause the other parties; and third, why the movant was tardy in filing its motion.” On the first factor, the Court observed that when CBF motioned to intervene, the proceedings below were already at relatively advanced stage of the proceedings. On the second factor of prejudice, the Court deferred to the district court, and found no reason to disagree. Considering the third factor, the Court found no abuse of discretion by the district court when CBF acknowledged that it closely monitored the case, and made the strategic decision not to intervene in the earlier stages of litigation because CBF believed that the case would be dismissed and needed to conserve its limited resources.

Full Opinion

Grace D. Faulkenberry