New Judge To Hear Arguments On Columbia River Dams And Salmon

The first powerhouse of the Bonneville Dam, 40 miles east of Portland, on the Columbia River.WikiCommons
The first powerhouse of the Bonneville Dam, 40 miles east of Portland, on the Columbia River.


by Cassandra Profita, OPB/EarthFix


The longstanding legal battle over maintaining dams and salmon in the Columbia River is back in court this week. On Tuesday, a new judge will hear arguments on the Obama administration’s latest salmon plan.

Conservation groups along with the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe have challenged the 2014 biological opinion, or BiOp, that guides dam operations. They’ll argue their case before Oregon U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon, who took over the case when Judge James Redden retired.

The question behind the case:  how to offset the impacts of Columbia River dams on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. That question has been subject to more than 20 years of legal conflict. Tuesday’s hearing is a continuation of a lawsuit that was filed in 2001.

Federal agencies that run the Columbia River hydropower system have submitted several salmon protection plans under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, but they’ve all been challenged and ultimately rejected in court. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration will defend their 2014 plan on Tuesday.

Supporters of the plan say strong salmon returns in recent years prove the latest plan is working. But opponents say it doesn’t do much more to protect salmon than previous plans already struck down by the courts.

Before retiring, Redden rejected the Obama administration’s 2011 salmon plan. After announcing he would step down from presiding over the case, he said in an interview that the four dams on the lower Snake River should be removed as a way to help struggling salmon runs. He also supported spilling more water over dams and increasing water flows to help young salmon and steelhead migrate to the ocean.

Joseph Bogaard, executive director of the plaintiff group Save Our Wild Salmon, said the administration’s new plan doesn’t consider Redden’s recommendations, and it actually allows the government to reduce the amount of water spilled over dams to help fish.

“So, they’re moving in the wrong direction,” he said. “In many ways this plan is simply just a recycled version of the plan that was invalidated by the court in 2011. Though, this plan actually allows for a reduction in spill. So, in that regard the new pan is actually weaker than the plan it seeks to replace.”

Terry Flores of Northwest RiverPartners represents commerce and industry groups that defend dams on the Columbia and lower Snake rivers. She said the current salmon plan does a lot to help salmon, including investing around $100 million a year in habitat restoration.  High rates of salmon survival show that the plan is working, she said, including the amount of water being spilled over dams to help fish.

“We’re seeing incredible results,” she said. “The federal agencies did look at the spill program and reached the conclusion that it’s working very well. It wasn’t like they didn’t look at it. They looked at it and said it is absolutely working.”

Flores said only Congress can address the removal of the lower Snake River dams.

Lawyer-Columnist Paul Now an Appellate Court Judge


Courtesy Patricia PaulPatricia Paul ... is now a judge of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Court of Appeals.
Courtesy Patricia Paul
Patricia Paul … is now a judge of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Court of Appeals.


Richard Walker, Indian Country Today


Patricia Paul, Inupiaq, is a business and estate-planning lawyer specializing in land use law and federal Indian law.

She and her artist husband Kevin live on the Swinomish Reservation, where he serves on the Swinomish Senate. She manages the business end of K. Paul Carvings, writes a traditional-cooking column for a local newspaper, and her daily social media posts range from local happenings to that day’s culinary creation.

Her spare time is her own. And she’s filling it with another important task: She’s now a judge on the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Court of Appeals.

The Tribal Council appointed Paul to a term ending on November 30, 2016. She joins Robert J. Miller, Eastern Shawnee, Douglas R. Nash, Nez Perce, on the court. She previously served as an appellate judge for the Northwest Intertribal Court System, presiding on appeals at Nooksack, Port Gamble S’Klallam, and Tulalip.

Paul brings a varied background to the bench.

In 1990 – three years before she graduated from college – she authored the booklet, “Beda: Traditions of Early Infant Care.” According to Paul, “Beda” is a Lushootseed word meaning “My child.” The booklet relates four Swinomish elders’ stories about traditional ways in which their families cared for and raised children. According to an Associated Press story at the time, the booklet was recognized by the American Indian Health Care Association “as a creative approach to solving health problems in Native communities.”

Paul earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Antioch University in 1993, and a law degree from Seattle University in 1998. She attended The National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada in 2011 and earned a certificate in Innovations in Governance from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2005.

She was legislative policy analyst for Quil Ceda Village on the Tulalip Reservation from 2003-06, before leaving to concentrate on her law practice. She served as parliamentarian of the annual shareholders meeting of Doyon, Limited, an Alaska Native Corporation, in March 2009.

In November 2012, Paul lectured in Bhutan on the topic of cultural change, and presented a paper on that topic in 2012 at the 54th International Congress of Americanists in Vienna.



Groups want to see Montana judge’s racist emails

In this June 23, 2011, file photo, Chief Judge Richard F. Cebull makes a speech during a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Billings, Mont. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, James Woodcock, File)
In this June 23, 2011, file photo, Chief Judge Richard F. Cebull makes a speech during a naturalization ceremony at the federal courthouse in Billings, Mont. (AP Photo/Billings Gazette, James Woodcock, File)


By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A group of American Indians wants a court to preserve and eventually release an investigative file containing inappropriate emails sent by a federal judge, including a racist message involving President Barack Obama.

Two Indian advocacy groups from Montana and South Dakota and a member of the Crow tribe filed a petition in U.S. District Court in California asking for the file to be preserved as evidence.

The groups want to know if Chief District Judge Richard Cebull made biased decisions from the bench. Their next step will be to file a lawsuit seeking public release of the documents, plaintiffs’ attorney Lawrence Organ said Wednesday.

Cebull was investigated after forwarding a racist message involving Obama. A judicial review panel found he sent hundreds of emails from his federal account that showed disdain for blacks, Indians, Hispanics, women, certain religions and others. He was publicly reprimanded and retired last year.

The investigation found no evidence of bias in his rulings. Organ said the only way to know that for sure is through the release of the emails.

“The fundamental principles of our entire legal system fall apart if a judge doesn’t come in with a neutral position,” Organ said. “If there are other decision makers involved, we’re not asking for their private email accounts. All we want to see are the emails accounts they used as government officials.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said its file on Cebull is confidential.

Plaintiffs in the case are South Dakota-based advocacy group Four Directions, Montana-based Indian People’s Action, and Sara Plains Feather, a member of southeastern Montana’s Crow Tribe.

Four Directions was involved in a voting rights lawsuit that sought to force several Montana counties to establish satellite voting districts on reservations. Cebull ruled against the Indian plaintiffs in that case, which was later settled after the 9th Circuit overturned his ruling.

Cebull himself and 10 others requested the misconduct investigation after The Great Falls Tribune reported the judge forwarded an email in February 2012 that included a joke about bestiality and Obama’s mother. Cebull apologized to Obama after the contents of that email were published.

The investigation looked at four years of Cebull’s personal correspondence sent from his official email account.

Cebull told the 9th Circuit panel that his “public shaming has been a life-altering experience.” Nominated by former President George W. Bush, he received his commission in 2001 and served as chief judge of the District of Montana from 2008 until 2013.

Named as defendants in the case were the office of 9th Circuit Executive Cathy Catterson and the Committee on Judicial Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Ninth Circuit spokesman David Madden said he could not comment on the pending petition.

The plaintiffs attempted in May to directly petition the 9th Circuit. That was rejected by the court’s clerk, who said the petition needed to be filed first at the district court level.

NCAI Congratulates Diane Humetewa On Her Confirmation To The U.S. District Court

Source:  The National Congress of American Indians
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) congratulates Diane J. Humetewa of the Hopi Indian Tribe on her confirmation as federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Arizona. As the newest member of the federal bench, she is the first Native American woman ever appointed to serve in that position.
The Honorable Humetewa is impeccably qualified for her new role. She has practiced law in federal courts for over a decade – as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, as Assistant U.S. Attorney, and as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona – and is experienced in a wide array of complex proceedings, hearings, and cases.
Further, Judge Humetewa has dedicated time to serving the interests of Native peoples. She has been the Appellate Court judge for the Hopi Tribe, counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and special advisor to the President on American Indian Affairs at Arizona State University.
NCAI greatly appreciates the efforts of the President and Senate in achieving this historic confirmation.  There are many qualified, talented people like Diane Humetewa in Indian Country who are able and willing to serve. We eagerly anticipate many more nominations of Native people to the federal bench and other offices.