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Yesterday's LA Times(reg/req) had a story about how a developer is suing 3 US Forest Service workers under the RICO act. The developer wants to build 132 condominiums and a 175 boat slip marina on Big Bear lake. In order to do this he will have to cut down 338 trees that Bald Eagles use as perch's in the winter. The Forestry workers got an injunction against the development because it was likely to violate "The Endangered Species Act" at some point. So the developer sued under the RICO act. And here is where the problem with the Justice Dept. begins.

Usually when a govt. employee is sued, the Justice Dept. supplies lawyers to defend the accused. But not this time. John, Let The Eagle Soar, Ashcroft appearently doesn't really care if they soar. More than a month has passed and even though an attourney for the Dept. Of Agriculture has requested a lawyer to defend them, the defendants have had to hire their own council.

more...

The attourney for the defendants has said that this is a classic case of an intimidation lawsuit and experts on the Justice Dept. say they are surprised that no lawyers have been supplied.

Steers' attorney, Jim Wheaton, of the First Amendment Project in Oakland, called the RICO case "a classic SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] suit. It has been filed to retaliate against people who had the good sense and strength to stand up for what they believe and to punish them for taking advantage of their constitutional rights."

...

Several former Justice Department lawyers, interviewed Friday, said they were surprised that the government is not providing lawyers to the Forest Service employees. Among them is Duke University law professor Catherine Fisk, a labor law specialist who represented government employees when she was a Justice Department attorney. Fisk said the Justice Department's hesitation could send a chilling message to other government workers.

Todays LA Times has an Editorial that cuts right to the heart of the matter. The developer filed the suit because he knew that the Bush Administration just isn't concerned about the environment.

Who's Really in Cahoots?

San Diego businessman Irving Okovita, whose attempt to build luxury condos in a bald eagle habitat near Big Bear has been blocked by a federal judge, wants the court to reconsider. But as he pursued that request, he must also have sensed something in the air, something emboldening in the way the Bush administration is eroding environmental protections

...

Okovita's lawsuit would be laughable if it didn't seem to fit a larger hostility to the environment. President Bush has reversed or weakened regulations protecting air, water, forests and other resources and starved enforcement agencies. Leaving passionate (and not very well paid) public employees at the mercy of wealthy developers might even fit with the plan....

I'm a Realtor and I usually like to try to find a ballance between between property rights and environmental issues. Development can be good for communities if it is ballanced with the needs of the environment. But there is no ballance in this project. We're not talking about cutting down a couple dozen trees with the ability for the eagles to find other nearby perch's. This is 12.5 acres and the friggin symbol of our country.

Didn't Bush say something about being the "Environmental President" at some point on the campaign trail?

Originally posted to Mike S on Tue Dec 21, 2004 at 09:51 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I like the tie in (none)
    to his awful song.
  •  One of the (4.00)
    great things about living in Santa Monica is that I can watch the dolphins swim by in the morning and watch the Bald Eagles soar by lunch. This story is local and personal to me but I would venture to guess that similar stories can be found in every place occupied by my fellow Kossacks.
  •  THANK YOU (none)

    I hadn't heard about this at all.  Glad you organized all the info so helpfully!

    What can we do to help?

    Susan in Port Angeles (my cat)

    by SusanHu on Tue Dec 21, 2004 at 09:57:54 AM PST

  •  Excellent Article (none)
    Thank you for posting this, and I would love to hear the follow up on this.

    Definitely recommended.

    Change starts at home.

    by Sychotic1 on Tue Dec 21, 2004 at 10:37:40 AM PST

  •  Wow (none)
    I'd have to read the pleadings to have an intelligent "imalawyer" comment (which this diary deserves, BTW.)
    However, given the midset of the Bushco justice department do these folks really want government lawyers assigned by Ashcroft to defend in a RICO action that seems like a test case for neutering evironmental regulators.  Some ill considered speculation about defense tactics.
    Join as a co-defendants everyone in your chain of command, one of them will be big anough to get serious representation involved.
    Check to see what civil service provisions would allow for indemnification of legal fees incurred in defending an official action.
    11b motions.
    I'll look around in the legal press and post again if I see anything.

    Might and Right are always fighting In our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning. Might can hardly keep from grinning. -Clarence D

    by Myrkury on Tue Dec 21, 2004 at 06:03:33 PM PST

    •  Interesting point (none)
      Finding inexpencive lawyers would be key since the couple makes abot 140k and the developer will have an endless supply of money.
      •  now that you mention it (none)
        Duh, anything that they can do to these folks, can be done to any Federal (or other) law enforcement personel, like FBI or ATF agents.  I might think that one of the well funded law officer's fraternal organizations could be made to understand their interest in nipping this tactic in the bud.

        Might and Right are always fighting In our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning. Might can hardly keep from grinning. -Clarence D

        by Myrkury on Wed Dec 22, 2004 at 12:17:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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