Jurisdiction shopping made simple

  • Dee Benson

  • Don Molloy

  • Alan Angus McDonald

  • B Lynn Winmill

  • Michael Hogan

  • Edward Lodge

  • Clarence Brimmer

  • James Parker

  • Sam Haddon


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Tipping the scales."

Dee Benson

U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, Utah A former staffer for Sen. Orrin Hatch; appointed in 1991 by Republican George H.W. Bush

Quick take Off-road drivers love his courtroom

Anti-green cases

  • 1995 — rejected a challenge to ORV traffic in wilderness study areas (appeals court agreed)
  • 1996 — halted survey of 2.6 million federal acres of possible wilderness study areas in Utah (appeals court overruled, allowing the survey)
  • 1999 — denied President Clinton’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Utah counties challenging Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, writing that when it was designated, "not one branch of government operated within its constitutional authority"
  • 2000 — refused to allow environmentalists to intervene in the monument case (appeals court overruled)
  • 2001 — rejected a challenge to an "ATV Jamboree" in Fish Lake National Forest
  • 2001 — rejected a challenge to a huge expansion of Snowbird Ski Resort, allowing a new 50,000-square-foot building atop an 11,000-foot peak
  • 2003 — with only a few hours notice, before environmentalists could intervene, agreed to a deal between the Bush administration and Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt that ended protection of nearly 6 million acres of wilderness inventory areas in Utah (the Interior Department has since applied the settlement to other potential wilderness areas nationally)

Pro-green cases

  • 1997 — squashed a lawsuit by a Texan billionaire who didn’t like a conservation initiative in Utah's Book Cliffs

Don Molloy

U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana Appointed in 1996 by Democrat Bill Clinton

Quick take One of the greenest judges in the West

Pro-green cases

  • 1998 — ruled that the U.S. Forest Service hadn’t provided adequate training, and ordered the agency to pay $3.5 million to the families of airtanker pilots who crashed while battling wildfire (appeals court disagreed)
  • 2000 — sided with the National Park Service, and ruled that a family with an old cabin inside Glacier National Park should not drive a snowmobile to the cabin
  • 2000 — rejected a snowmobilers’ challenge, and OK’d a Lolo National Forest plan to manage 400,000 roadless acres for nonmotorized use
  • 2001 — rejected a game-farmer’s challenge, and upheld Montana’s law phasing out game farms, passed by popular initiative
  • 2001 — ordered the Forest Service to restore wild conditions on 650,000 acres of wilderness study areas that have been degraded (Bush administration has appealed to the Supreme Court)
  • 2002 — shut down 176 million board-feet of salvage logging on the Bitterroot National Forest, ruling that the Bush administration and the U.S. Forest Service illegally cut off public appeals
  • 2003 — ordered W.R. Grace and Co. to pay the federal government $54.5 million to help clean up the company’s asbestos mess in Libby, the largest fine ordered after a trial in Superfund history
  • 2003 — shut down nine salvage timber sales in Lolo National Forest (appeals court shut down the logging on different legal grounds)
  • 2003 — shut down five timber sales in Kootenai National Forest because the Forest Service was violating its own plan for protecting old-growth habitat

Anti-green cases

  • 2002, 2003, 2004 — rejected four challenges to salvage logging and old-growth logging in Montana and Idaho
  • 2003 — rejected a challenge to motorized access on some trails in the Clearwater National Forest

Alan Angus McDonald

U.S. District Court in Yakima, Washington Appointed in 1985 by Republican Ronald Reagan

Quick take Judge presiding over Hanford nuclear pollution got busted for conflict of interest and passing racist notes in court

Anti-green cases

  • 1991 — when a worker at the federal Hanford nuclear-weapons site complained he was harassed for raising safety concerns, McDonald ruled that federal law doesn’t protect whistle-blowers at federal nuclear sites
  • 1993 — in a massive case in which thousands of downwind residents exposed to radioactive releases from Hanford sued Hanford contractors, ruled the contractors did not have to pay for medical tests (appeals court disagreed)
  • 1994 — ordered that a scientific review finding flaws in the government’s assessment of Hanford’s downwind radioactivity should not be available to the public (another judge disagreed and made the criticism public, nine years later)
  • 1996 — ruled that uranium tailings are not covered by the Clean Water Act and EPA regulations (appeals court agreed)
  • 1998 and 1999 — in two sweeping rulings, dismissed most of the health-related claims of about 5,500 Hanford downwinders against Hanford contractors, and rejected 17 scientific experts the downwinders wanted to testify (appeals court reinstated all the claims and the experts in 2002)
  • 2000 — reporter Karen Dorn Steele of the Spokesman-Review revealed that for years, Judge McDonald had been passing racist notes (including insults to "greasers" and blacks) back and forth with his courtroom deputy while court was in session; fellow judges in the judicial council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reprimanded McDonald for conduct that "could reasonably be interpreted as reflecting bias"
  • 2003 — McDonald recused himself from handling the Hanford downwinders case, when it was revealed that he’d bought an orchard just downwind from Hanford back in 1999, and told a bank that the land was free of radiation (Hanford downwinders have a new judge now, with trial expected next year)

Pro-green cases

  • 2003 — blocked shipments of more radioactive waste to Hanford until a state lawsuit against the Department of Energy is settled

B. Lynn Winmill

U.S. District Court in Boise, Idaho Appointed in 1995 by Democrat Bill Clinton

Quick take Counterpoint to Idaho’s arch-Republican climate

Pro-green cases

  • 1999 and 2000 — ordered the BLM to clamp down on overgrazing in the 1 million acre Owyhee region
  • 2000 — sentenced chemical-company owner Allan Elias to 17 years in prison for knowingly exposing an employee to toxic conditions, the harshest sentence in the history of U.S. environmental crime, according to Associated Press (Elias had ordered Scott Dominguez to clean a huge tank in Idaho that had residues of chemicals that make poison gas; Dominguez suffered severe brain damage)
  • 2001 — squashed a law the Idaho Legislature passed to make it tougher for citizen petition drives to put initiatives on the ballot
  • 2002 — ruled that a Challis rancher must leave enough water in a stream for the threatened bull trout, and install a screen to prevent trout from being swept into irrigation ditches; streams which had been dry for 85 years suddenly had water in them
  • 2002 and 2003 — prevented the federal government from killing or removing wolves from Sawtooth National Recreation Area, even if the wolves prey on livestock, because the area was established with wildlife as a higher priority
  • 2003 — ruled the Energy Department can’t reclassify high-level nuclear wastes as "incidental wastes" just to do less stringent cleanups (see story page 12)
  • 2003 — squashed a plan by the federal Wildlife Services and Idaho Fish and Game Department to kill ravens, coyotes, foxes, bears, lions, bobcats, raccoons, badgers and other predators on 250 square miles of southern Idaho, which had been proposed to help sage grouse

Anti-green cases

  • 1996 to 1999 — in a series of cases, rejected challenges to logging in Idaho’s national forests (appeals court disagreed in several cases and ordered more study of the logging)

Michael Hogan

U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon Appointed in 1991 by Republican George H.W. Bush

Quick take Hard on old growth, and lately, salmon

Anti-green cases

  • 1995 — siding with the timber industry in a series of rulings, Hogan more than tripled the amount of healthy old-growth forest the Clinton administration envisioned would be logged with little environmental review under the "salvage rider," to a total of more than 600 million board-feet, including habitat for the endangered spotted owl and the threatened marbled murrelet (appeals court agreed with the key ruling)
  • 1996 — allowed dozens of timber sales in old-growth habitat for the marbled murrelet (appeals court disagreed)
  • 2000 — ruled that 95 acres of privately owned spotted owl habitat could be clear-cut
  • 2001 — knocked Oregon coastal coho salmon off the threatened species list, ruling there is no difference between rare wild fish and abundant hatchery-raised fish (appeals court has this ruling on hold until an appeal is resolved)

Pro-green cases

  • 1998 — ruled that water rights for endangered species and Indian tribes have precedent over farmers’ rights in the Klamath Basin
  • 2000 — helped hammer out a settlement that calls for plans by 2010 to clean up 13,000 miles of polluted rivers, streams and lakes in Oregon
  • 2000 — called into Montana to run a mediation on salvage logging on the Bitterroot National Forest; helped hammer out an agreement to cut less timber
  • 2003 — maintained limits on access to 210 miles of West Coast beaches, to protect nesting habitat for the threatened snowy plover

Edward Lodge

U.S. District Court in Boise, Idaho Appointed in 1989 by Republican George H.W. Bush

Quick take Never met a timber sale he didn’t like, but willing to listen on some issues

Pro-green cases

  • 1991 — blocked shipments of high-level nuclear waste to Idaho, saying the Department of Energy needed a state air-quality permit (appeals court reversed the ruling)
  • 1995 — blocked federal shipments of spent nuclear fuel to Idaho, until the feds agreed to spend an estimated $350 million for cleanup
  • 1995 — OK’d the drawdown of Dworshak Reservoir to help chinook salmon
  • 1997 — on freedom-of-speech grounds, overturned convictions of a dozen Earth First! protesters in the Cove-Mallard logging area
  • 1999 — hammered out a deal to retain more water to help Lake Pend Oreille’s kokanee salmon and endangered bull trout
  • 2003 — ordered the Department of Energy to remove all transuranic nuclear waste stored at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Lab

Anti-green cases

  • 1994 — ordered environmentalists to pay legal expenses for logging companies in a dispute over the Cove-Mallard area
  • 1995 — rejected a challenge to the huge 265 million board-foot Boise River salvage timber sale, where wildfires and the subsequent logging combined to cause catastrophic erosion
  • 1995 — rejected a challenge to the 14 million board-foot Thunderbolt salvage sale, in a designated salmon recovery area
  • 1998 — ruled that mining companies were not liable for a century of natural-resource damage throughout the Coeur d’Alene River Basin (appeals court vacated his ruling)
  • 2001 — issued an injunction blocking the Clinton roadless initiative, saying the attempt to protect 58 million acres of roadless forest had been illegally rushed through (appeals court disagreed and lifted the injunction in 2002)
  • 2001 — rejected a challenge to logging in a 44,000-acre roadless area (appeals court disagreed, but by then, the logging was done)
  • 2003 — saying his hands are tied by the law, ruled that mining companies are responsible for natural-resource damage in the Coeur d’Alene Basin, but emphasized he believes the damage has been "exaggerated" (he will set a monetary amount soon)

Clarence Brimmer

U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming Appointed in 1975 by Republican Gerald Ford

Quick take Mostly uphill slogging for green lawyers Anti-green cases

  • 1980 — ordered federal agencies to keep 1 million roadless acres open to oil and gas exploration unless the areas were formally designated as wilderness study areas or official wilderness
  • 1992 — scolded federal agencies for being "negligent" because wandering elk and bison might spread brucellosis to cattle, while ruling that ranchers lacked evidence to collect damages
  • 1996 — tossed out four of Clinton's "rangeland reform" regulations, while making repeated references to ranchers’ "right" to keep cattle on public land (the U.S. Supreme Court overruled, reinstalling three regs and making it clear that grazing is a privilege, not a right)
  • 2001 — rejected a challenge to overgrazing on the BLM’s degraded 90,000 acre Smiths Fork allotment
  • 2003 — issued a temporary injunction blocking Clinton's roadless initiative, saying it illegally tried to establish 58 million acres of wilderness without congressional approval (appeal pending)
  • 2003 — overruled Department of Interior administrative judges, and allowed coalbed methane drilling to proceed where the BLM has outdated resource plans that don’t even mention coalbed methane drilling
  • 2004 — agreed to reopen snowmobilers’ challenge to the ban in Yellowstone National Park
  • 2004 — refused to dismiss a lawsuit by rancher Frank Robbins, which seeks to hold BLM employees personally liable for "harassment" and "extortion" in their crackdown on his cattle grazing

Pro-green cases

  • 1985 — ordered a wealthy out-of-stater to modify the infamous 28-mile-long Red Rim fence, which had caused the death of hundreds of Wyoming antelope by keeping them off critical winter range
  • 1993 — ruled that Wind River Multiple-Use Advocates had no standing to challenge national forest policies on grizzly bears, logging and mining
  • 1994 — told a millionaire Texan who bought 90,000 acres in Wyoming that he didn’t own permits to hunt deer and elk there
  • 2003 — OK’d second release of lynx in Colorado

James Parker

U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, New Mexico Appointed in 1997 by Republican Ronald Reagan

Quick takes Champion of tiny desert fish and more

Pro-green cases

  • 1996 — in a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, hammered out an agreement calling for the BLM to study grazing’s impact on endangered species along 600 miles of New Mexico streams; subsequent agreements removed cattle from several streams
  • 1999 — rejected a developer’s challenge, and ruled the city of Santa Fe could deny a building permit for a 56-lot subdivision
  • 2000 — brokered a deal between environmentalists and water-users, attempting to keep enough water in the Rio Grande to sustain the tiny, endangered silvery minnow
  • 2001 — brokered a settlement attempting to keep enough water in the Pecos River for another tiny threatened fish, the bluntnose shiner
  • 2001 — stopped a 13,000-acre timber sale because the U.S. Forest Service had not adequately weighed the impacts on five "indicator species"
  • 2002 — ruled that some water diverted across the Continental Divide for New Mexico cities and farmers could be reserved for the Rio Grande’s minnow
  • 2002 — found the federal Wildlife Services agency didn’t have enough evidence to justify killing cougars, and ordered additional studies 2003 — ordered property owners to unlock a gate and allow public access to federal land in upper Soledad Canyon near Las Cruces

Anti-green cases

  • 1997 — although he dismissed a lawsuit against Molycorp, a molybdenum mining company near Questa, saying he didn’t have jurisdiction, he said, "I have serious concerns about the alleged contamination of the Red River downstream from (the mine). That stretch of river was once an excellent trout fishery. For whatever reason, it no longer is."
  • 2002 — upheld a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "biological opinion" that allowed portions of the Rio Grande to go dry (but complimented environmentalists who filed the lawsuit)

Sam Haddon

U.S. District Court in Great Falls, Montana Appointed in 2001 by Republican George W. Bush

Quick take First George W. Bush judge in West

Anti-green cases

  • 2002 — ruled that salty groundwater discharged from coalbed methane wells is not a pollutant covered by the Clean Water Act (appeals court reversed his ruling; a gas company has appealed the reversal to the U.S. Supreme Court)
  • 2003 — ruled that the state of Montana can’t bill the Arco mining company for environmental restoration on a Superfund site near Butte; the cost of cleaning up old wastes and pollution can be billed, but the ruling makes it tougher for the state to restore streams and aquifers (the state planned to appeal the ruling)

Pro-green cases

  • 2003 — upheld Montana’s popular-initiative law that phases out game farms, rejecting a game-farmers claim that the law was an unconstitutional "takings" of private property
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