Friday, February 10, 2012

The Save The Peaks Coalition v. U.S. Forest Service

 Feb 9: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-17896. On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. The Appeals Court does not hold back in expressing its displeasure with this case and its attorney and plaintiffs.
    The Appeals Court said, "This case represents a gross abuse of the judicial process. Just when Defendants-Appellees United States Forest Service and Joseph P. Stringer (USFS), and Intervenor-Defendant Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership (ASRLP) had successfully defended an agency decision to allow snowmaking at a ski resort on Federal land all the way to the United States Supreme Court, 'new' plaintiffs appeared. Represented by the same attorney as the losing parties in the first lawsuit, the 'new' plaintiffs -- who had closely monitored and, in some cases, actively encouraged and helped finance the first litigation --brought certain environmental claims that were virtually identical to some that the attorney had improperly attempted to raise in the earlier lawsuit, for no apparent reason other than to ensure further delay and forestall development.
    "Years had passed since the original proposal had been made. According to the record, ASRLP, which operated the ski resort, faced a looming prospect of financial ruin without the ability to proceed with the plan to produce snow. Neither fact deterred the 'new' plaintiffs' lawsuit. Nor did the meritless nature of their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq., and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-706.
    "Although it is apparent to us that the 'new' plaintiffs and their counsel have grossly abused the judicial process by strategically holding back claims that could have, and should have, been asserted in the first lawsuit (and would have been decided earlier but for counsel's procedural errors in raising those claims), we are compelled to hold that laches [an equitable defense that limits the time in which a party may bring suit] does not apply here because the USFS and ASRLP cannot demonstrate that they suffered prejudice, as defined by our case law. . . Nevertheless, we hold that the Save the Peaks Plaintiffs' claims fail under NEPA and the APA. Accordingly, we hold that the district court properly granted summary judgment to the USFS and ASRLP, and we affirm."
    Access complete opinion (click here). [#Land, #CA9]
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