May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - If you want to catch trout, don't fish in a herring barrel.
Taking Water and Paying for ItLast December, when we were all bundled up for our winter nap, things were happening in D.C., and we weren't paying attention. But now, the news is out. The US Court of Claims (where you go if you have a claim against the federal government) decided that farmers in two California counties are entitled to just compensation for water taken from their land.
Sounds kind of normal, doesn't it?
Except that the water was taken to protect endangered winter-run Chinook salmon and threatened delta smelt between 1992 and 1994. The USFWS withheld billions of gallons from farmers in California's Kern and Tulare counties. But, since taking the water constituted a "taking" under the 5th Amendment, the government now has to pay the damages for that condemnation.
About $26 million. That's a lot of fish. The cash will go to about 15 farmers in the Tulare Lake Basin water district. Hansen Ranches, Lost Hills Water District and Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Supply District were also affected by the loss of water.
The NRDC is not happy with the lawsuit, claiming it is just a backdoor attack on the Endangered Species Act because condemnation payments by the federal government to affected parties will prevent needed listings of endangered species.
I thought that's what the Constitution was supposed to provide. Maybe I missed something.
Big Stink Over Cruise Lines' SewageRun this search, and Royal Caribbean pops up on Google as the number two pick.
A non-profit group, Oceana, bought ads on Google that criticized Royal Caribbean for its treatment of sewage at sea. In return, Google pulled Oceana's ads. Google's Press releases provide no insight. Oceana, though, has plenty to say.
Royal Caribbean is noticeably silent, although the company touts $600,000 in new grants to marine organizations. Oceana, is not among them, however.
It's a problem that the U.S. Coast Guard has dealt with before. Maybe it's not just a big stink over nothing.
Watch where you swim.
Clean Air in Planes? Who Knows?I fly. A lot. Never got interviewed for one of those person-in-the-airport commercials though. But if I could convert my frequent flyer miles to cash, I could almost retire. So, you'll understand why these stories on the quality of in-flight cabin air distress me.
Here's the first news flash: we don't know enough about the quality of air in airplanes. No kidding! Tell me something I don't know.
But, it gets better. Pilots supposedly turn down the air circulation on planes to save fuel. Pesticides sprayed in the cabins allegedly contain substances banned in the U.S. So says Which? magazine (see the second article down). Great. You can do your own search at Which? (free 30-day trial, signup required).
Maybe it's time to get one of those personal, wearable air purifiers. Nah. Read this first. Not a good choice. Probably no good ones if you have to get on a plane.
Just don't sneeze.
Ride 'em Cowboy - Snowmobiles Back in ActionSnowmobiles. I've written so much about them that you think I owned one. Not so. Never even ridden on one. Not that I have no desire to - I think it would be fun - but I've just never had the chance.
So, if you've followed the story here before, you're up to speed. If not, click on the link and read up if you want to know more. In any event here's the short version:
In the previous episodes on snowmobiles (to borrow a phrase from TV), the environmentalists have been trying to stop the use of the machines in Yellowstone National Park. They went to Washington, D.C. to find a judge to hear the case. Not surprisingly, the judge limited the use of snowmobiles this winter. That was the story up through today. Now there's another twist in the saga.
Not satisfied with the D.C. judge's ruling, the snowmobilers went to their home state, Wyoming to find a sympathetic judge.
They did. The Wyoming judge just issued an injunction that effectively reinstated the snowmobilers to Yellowstone.
Now, the machines can blaze down trails throughout the Park.
Ride 'em cowboy.
All the Cost Without Any of the FunOK, I'll bite. A woman in Colorado is suing for what may be the first lawsuit on wrongful pregnancy because of a botched sterilization.
She is suing for the cost to raise her child.
I could keep on writing (imagine the possibilities and puns), but it's better left unsaid, especially after Superbowl 38-C.
Can Spam Act Reduced Spam Merely 1%Have you bought Viagra from your inbox? How about an online degree? Maybe started working from home? (The lack of links in this first paragraph is intentional.)
The Can Spam Act passed last year has done virtually nothing to stop unwanted emails. A study just completed says the Act resulted in a mere 1% drop in spam, barely a dent in your email inbox. Right now, estimates have us dealing with junk email at least an hour a day. How much time does it take you?
Our laws are not tough enough to stop the barrage of unwanted emails. Getting past spam filters is almost child's play.
What to do? Try capitalism. Don't buy the stuff or click on the links. Eventually, it will go away. Not satisfied with that answer? Talk to your legislator. Tell them to stop it by passing laws that can be enforced with stiff penalties.
In the meantime, I just click "delete." Now if I could only figure out a way to do that with my tax bill.
Mr. Spock Now Writes for the Ninth CircuitNow that the Covington v. Jefferson County decision has had time to percolate, I've noticed some interesting aspects to the opinion.
Michael and Karla Covington live across from a landfill in Jefferson County, Idaho. Now that you've got that lovely sight (and smell) in your mind, let's go on.
The Covingtons sued the County over the underground contamination and the airborne contamination.
The dump was set ablaze at least twice, and was was replete with biological and hazardous waste, ranging from rotting cow carcasses to car batteries. I can't even begin to imagine. The Covingtons also presented evidence that household appliances, including refrigerators and dishwashers, were improperly dumped at the site and leaking chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere.
One question that comes immediately to mind is that if you have enough money to bring a lawsuit, why don't you move first?
In any event, onward and upward, as they say. The Covingtons lost their Clean Air Act claims in the lower court, but were allowed to pursue their underground contamination claims. Not satisfied with that decision, they appealed.
The Ninth Circuit heard the appeal, and decided that the Covingtons were right. The appellate judges reversed the lower court's finding that the Covingtons didn't have standing to bring the CAA claims. So, now the Covingtons get to go back to the lower court and try their case. We'll see what happens in about a year.
Apart from the facts and ruling of the case, though, that's not the whole story.
The most important aspect of the Ninth Circuit's decision was what was not said in the main opinion. In a bit of a rarity, Judge Ronald M. Gould (there's no "Justice" in the Ninth Circuit), who wrote the main opinion, also wrote the concurring opinion.
Given that foreshadowing, you're probably ready for what comes next.
The twist to this whole case comes in the concurring opinion, not the main opinion. The separate, concurring opinion, which does not have the force of a holding in the case, takes a few steps beyond the actual standing issue. He set the stage for expanding the law on who can bring suits for widespread damage, such as ozone depletion.
Judge Gould opined that "A theory that 'injury to all is injury to none' seems wrong in theory for it would deny standing to every citizen such that no matter how badly the whole may be hurt, none of the parts could ever have standing to go to court to cure a harmful violation."
What is he saying? Precedent generally holds that generalized, global maladies with no unique, concrete or particularized personal injury cannot alone constitute sufficient standing for an individual to bring suit. Gould's concurrence goes beyond the facts of the opinion (something he acknowledges), but he set forth his thoughts anyway.
In sum, Judge Gould argues that any one individual has the right to bring a lawsuit for injuries arising from ozone depletion, because the harm to all is harm to one.
Judge Gould probably learned his lesson from Mr. Spock. You know - the part where Spock's usual lack of understanding humans shows through in his comment that the "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one," from The Wrath of Kahn.
Fajitagate Turns into $33 Million LawsuitWe are a little flaky out here on the left coast. Sometimes, more than you would expect, though. Like Fajitagate in San Francisco.
Yep. You heard it right. Fa-hee-ta-gate: A late night brawl between three cops and two regular people over a bag of fajita chips that allegedly gets covered up by the big brass in the department.
Now, though, it's turned into a $33 million lawsuit. Here's the ACLU's take.
It's all out of hand, with big charges over those big chips flying back and forth.
We call them sandbox lawsuits. Almost as much fun as celebrity boobs.