John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
In this 63-page Order, Judge Shubb denied the defendants' motion to reopen the Moonlight Fire settlement based on alleged fraud on the court. [added: Sac Bee, 4/17/15]. Here's the court's conclusion:
Defendants made a calculated decision to settle this case almost two years ago, and a final judgment was entered pursuant to their agreement. To set that judgment aside, the law requires a showing of fraud on the court, not an imperfect investigation. Defendants have failed to identify even a single instance of fraud on the court, certainly none on the part of any attorney for the government. They repeatedly argue that fraud on the court can be found by considering the totality of the allegations. Here, the whole can be no greater than the sum of its parts. Stripped of its bluster, defendants' motion is wholly devoid of any substance.
Yesterday, Judge Shubb heard oral argument on the fraud-on-the-court motion to reopen the Moonlight Fire civil case. He did not rule from the bench; the docket states that a written order would be forthcoming.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley's website links to this letter that he and Utah Senator Mike Lee signed, calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the allegations of misconduct at issue in this case.
To complete your Moonlight Fire Case fraud motion briefing, the defendants' 121-page supplemental reply brief regarding their fraud on the court motion is available here. Oral argument is now scheduled for April 13, 2:00 p.m., before Judge Shubb in courtroom 5.
Here is the start of the 2/18 Sacramento Bee story on the government's opposition brief in the Moonlight Fire civil case:
Federal prosecutors in Sacramento have launched a blistering new attack on Sierra Pacific Industries and its lawyers, accusing the timber giant of “deception” and “scandal mongering” in its efforts to reverse a $100 million settlement it agreed to pay over the 2007 Moonlight fire, which burned huge swaths of the Plumas and Lassen national forests.
The United States filed today this 115-page Opposition with Appendices A, B, and Cto the defendants' Supplemental Brief in support of their motion to open the civil judgment due to fraud on the EDCA court in the "Moonlight Fire" civil case.
I just learned of a blog, moonlightfire.net, dedicated to the Moonlight Fire disaster with links to lots of media coverage and key legal briefs.
Today, the defendants in the Moonlight Fire case filed this Doc 625-1 Defs Revised Supp Briefing regarding its Rule 60(d)(3) motion to reopen a settlement based on alleged fraud on the court. Although it's long, 136 pages without tables, the strongly-worded introduction is worth a read. It accuses Moonlight Investigators of "obstruct[ing] justice, a federal crime that carries a penalty of up to twenty years," and charges that federal attorneys assisted them. Brief, at 4. It also includes new, previously redacted information at pages 98, 101-02.
A judge on Monday slowed down Sierra Pacific Industries’ attempt to breathe life back into the government’s lawsuit against the timber giant over the cause of the 2007 Moonlight wildfire.
Despite the mountain of paper filed by the parties in the past six weeks, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb told opposing counsel at a status hearing that the “threshold question” is whether there has been fraud perpetrated on the Sacramento federal court.
If not, Shubb declared, Sierra Pacific has no standing to reopen the suit, which was settled more than two years ago. A one-year statute of limitations prevents the company from claiming it was defrauded by the government. If a fraud by the government on the court can be shown, however, it would not be subject to such a restriction, the judge said.
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Shubb said he wants both sides focused only on whether the court was victimized by false and misleading evidence presented by the government, as Sierra Pacific’s lawyers claim. He set oral arguments on the issue for April 6.