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. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in clinical trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. 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 The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated.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.
Today's Sacramento News & Review comments on the latest EDCA ruling [here] denying a preliminary injunction sought by environmental and fishing groups to halt water transfers from Northern California to San Joaquin Valley irrigators. See also Cal Sport and Indybay.
The U.S. District Court in Fresno Tuesday refused to stop Millerton Lake water from being sent to wildlife refuges and farmers with historic rights on the Valley's west side.
East San Joaquin Valley farmers, facing a zero allocation of Millerton water, asked the court last week to stop the flow.
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In rejecting the bid for a temporary restraining order, the court said the water allocation is a result of the way Congress wrote laws, not government regulators prioritizing fish and wildlife above farmers and the economy.
"A U.S. District judge ruled late Thursday that water can be released from Northern California's Trinity Reservoir to prevent a salmon kill in the lower Klamath River, but the amount of water involved will be far less than the federal government initially asked for." Fresno Bee, 8/22/13.
In this 8/13/13 temporary restraining order, the EDCA court in Fresno temporarily halted the release of hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the Trinity Reservoir designed to prevent a potential salmon die-off entering the Klamath River estuary. Courthouse News, 8/14/13. An 8/14/13 order extended the TRO to August 23. A hearing on plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction is set for August 21.
The enormous Central Valley Project runs nearly 400 miles through California's Central Valley, from the Cascade Mountains near Redding to the "semi-arid but fertile plains along the Kern River in the south," according to the bureau's website. The Central Valley Project is managed by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation. The dams, reservoirs, power plants, and canals are used for river and flood control, irrigation, municipal drinking water supplies, and protecting and restoring wildlife. As lead agency under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (1992), the Bureau of Reclamation must run the giant system in compliance with state and federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act. The Bureau must issue an environmental impact statement before it can approve the renewal of "existing long-term water service contracts for successive periods of up to 25 years," U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill wrote in a 32-page order.
In a split 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit today affirmed former Judge Wanger's decision finding that a federal agency's renewal of water contracts neither violates the Endangered Species Act nor illegally threaten the delta smelt in National Resource Defense Council v. Salazar, 09-17661.
The Ninth Circuit also affirmed the denial of a suppression motion in a misdemeanor marijuana case (my case) in U.S. v. Pope, 11-10311.
Two government biologists who were assailed by then-U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger last fall over their testimony in a water lawsuit did not violate professional standards or use bad science, according to a report released by a panel of scientists.
Wanger, however, said the report vindicates his criticism of the Interior Department biologists because it also noted their testimony had inconsistencies and inadequacies.
"I was focused on the truthfulness of their statements," Wanger said Friday. "This confirms the inconsistency that I found in their testimony."
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In the report released Thursday, a panel contracted by the U.S. Department of the Interior found no evidence of deliberate falsehood or personal opinion in the testimony of Norris and Feyrer.
The panel did find their testimony contained minor inconsistencies and inadequacies. It also found that it was not clear from the record exactly how the biologists reached the conclusions they did.
"We suspect that this failure to provide clear and convincing explanation, more than any other issue, may have led Judge Wanger to reach his conclusions alleging lack of candor and integrity," the report said.
Judge Oliver Wanger, who retired Sept. 30 from the federal district court in Fresno, recently was named in a court filing as an attorney for Westlands Water District. The district delivers water to farms in the San Joaquin Valley, most of it diverted from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Just weeks before retirement, Wanger ruled in favor of Westlands in a case the district brought against federal regulation of water diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The rules are meant to protect the Delta smelt, a threatened fish.
In an outburst from the bench in that case on Sept. 19, he accused two federal scientists of bias, calling one a "zealot" and suggesting the other distorted the truth. It was a rare emotional moment for Wanger, who for two decades has ruled for both water users and environmental groups in numerous complex water cases.
On retirement, Wanger became headline partner at a Fresno law firm that previously saw relatively little work in the water arena.
Wanger said he sees no conflict in taking the Westlands case.
"I would not undertake any representation where there is a conflict," he said. "Candidly, if the environmentalists had sought to hire me or the government had sought to hire me and I had no conflicts, I would have been happy to consider representing them."
Wanger is also representing Fresno County in its effort to prevent Occupy Fresno protesters from camping in Courthouse Park.