Here are a couple of items that I meant to get online last week. Best of intentions, oh well…
U.S. District Judge James A. Redden, who has served on the federal bench in Oregon since 1980 and has rejected three different operating plans put forth by three different presidential administrations for the Columbia River hydropower system, will step down.
In an e-mail to attorneys in the long-running legal battle over the hydrosystem, the judge said he would leave the bench before Jan. 1, 2014, the deadline for the government to file a new plan addressing dams and endangered salmon in the Columbia River Basin.
“Dear Counsel,” the judge wrote Nov. 22. “At our last meeting I indicated that I would step down prior to the filing of the 2014 BiOp. I struck the 2000 BiOp, and the 2004 BiOp, and the 2008/2011 BiOp. I will file a Notice of Case Reassignment. The Chief Judge and other Article III Judges of this court will assign this case to a’“new’ Article III Judge. This will allow time for that judge to review the history of this matter before the 2014 BiOp is filed.
“I will follow this matter with great interest,” he concluded.
The case has been reassigned to U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon.
Some quotes from articles and editorials in the Northwest (scroll over link for source):
“Neither [Pat] Ford, [executive director of Save Our Wild Salmon], nor Will Stelle, Northwest regional director of the NOAA Fisheries Service, expect a new judge to take a course significantly different from Redden.
‘He already laid out the roadmap for us,’ Stelle said. ‘We will follow that roadmap.’ ” (Jeff Barnard, Associated Press)
Meanwhile, down the coast from Redden, Oliver Wanger, only recently retired from the bench in Fresno, is representing Westlands Water District in an action in state court.
The former federal judge, who decided numerous significant cases involving water management in California, told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s one case only in the state court. It involves matters of law and fact that I, of course, had nothing to do with and no association with” as a federal judge.
“I obviously am bound by the canons of ethics and judicial conduct and will observe those scrupulously,” Wanger also told the newspaper, which reported that he “has been a featured speaker at several meetings of water contractors since he left the bench Sept. 30.”
There was criticism of the judge’s choice of clientele, however. In an editorial, the Sacramento Bee said, “his decision to work for Westlands throws into question his past impartiality, since he was at the center of so many cases involving this water district and previously ruled on similar lawsuits involving federal statutes.”
The Bee also noted that on Oct. 3, three days after Wanger put down his gavel, “a major Westlands landowner emailed an invitation to growers announcing that Wanger would be the guest speaker at a political event for a local supervisor who used to clerk for Wanger. ‘Judge Oliver Wanger has been key in supporting Valley agriculture and its lawful access to essential water!,’ said the flier sent by Westlands grower Mark Borba.”
Wanger is not violating any federal ethics rules, since his representation is in a case in state, not federal, court. But the Bee said he was especially tough on federal scientists in the last water case he presided over, calling one biologist a “zealot” and questioning another’s credibility.
The man with his hand on California’s spigot (Bettina Boxall, L.A. Times, 10/7/2011)
S.F. Chronicle editorial (12/2/2011)