Friday, January 25, 2008

I am blown away by this editorial

An end to the saga

The suit by the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office against Pacific Lumber Co. appears to have reached its end, after years of strife and division.

It seems so long ago when District Attorney Paul Gallegos and his then right-hand man, Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen, announced the suit in 2003. For skeptics and enemies of Palco, the suit seemed like justice riding to the rescue -- the government taking on corporate power gone awry.

For others, though, the suit was seen as ill-thought-out attack on Humboldt County's historical way of life, and on one of the county's main economic engines.

Across the board, the suit split the county into various sides and ultimately led to the attempted recall of Gallegos, an effort that failed but brought even more division, more angst and more political bloodbath.

Gallegos survived the recall, but lost the suit.

Filed in February 2003, it claimed Palco submitted faulty studies during the Headwaters Forest negotiations to get the California Department of Forestry to adopt a less restrictive long-term logging plan. Gallegos' second amended complaint was thrown out of Humboldt County Superior Court by visiting Judge Richard Freeborn, a ruling upheld by the appeals court.

The logging plan was part of the agreement to sell the 7,400-acre Headwaters Forest and other groves for $480 million. Gallegos argued that the company secured it by submitting false data on landslides in one watershed and not submitting a correction until the last minute.

Palco's lobbying efforts with the state were the real force behind CDF's decision to drop the stricter logging plan and adopt a less restrictive one, the appeals court judges determined. The California Environmental Quality Act proceedings during the Headwaters discussions were the appropriate venue to consider if any evidence presented was false, they wrote.

Those lobbying efforts are privileged under state unfair competition laws, the ruling reads. The court also determined that Palco is protected by the Noerr-Pennington Doctrine that shields anyone petitioning the government or government agencies against civil liability, unless they are engaged in a “sham.”

Palco's efforts didn't meet the definition of a sham, the court wrote.

At this point we have to ask whether the suit was worth the cost, both monetarily and in the social repercussions that split this community so violently down the middle.

When Gallegos initially ran for office, he was criticized by some for -- to say it plainly -- not being a very good attorney. The results of this case don't do much to help his case.

He says now that he does not regret bringing the case. Should he? There's no easy answer there, but once voters make that determination in their own minds, the next question is whether Gallegos should pay the price with his job come next election.

On this case rested Gallegos' legacy as the Humboldt County district attorney. While some would uphold him as a visionary and a fighter, all we have seen after more than a term in office is that he brings division under the name of high ideals, and then fails to deliver on that promise.

It makes us wonder if the real motivation behind this suit was self-aggrandizement, rather than the well-being of Humboldt County residents.


THANK YOU, Times Standard.

9 comments:

  1. I thought about you, Rose, when I read the editorial.

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  2. I love that the TS is finally growing some balls. Now let's hear the county's oldest daily weigh in on Paul's most recent play for personal glory at our expense: the trumped-up charges against Zanotti and Douglas.

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  3. This editorial restores my faith in the inherent goodness in people.

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  4. robin shelley1/25/2008 5:07 PM

    Any comments from Stoen?

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  5. he says "pass the koolaid"...

    or maybe..."jesus is god"...

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  6. Good for the Times Standard. This is a thoughtful and well written editorial.

    I am waiting for the editorial that comes out after PVG's next big disaster, the charges against the Eureka Police Officers get dumped, dismissed, or kicked out of court. Then maybe some higher authourity will take exception to PVG using his political office against his personal enemies while letting thieves, druggies, and perverts go with a slap on the wrist (and not a very hard slap).

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  7. A DA has virtually absolute discretion to determine if and what charges should be filed against a given individual. Here, almost the first thing that PVG did upon taking office was to file this divisive and ultimately pointless civil lawsuit. Remember, this case was not decided on the merits - it was dismissed because PVG could not state a cause of action. Objectively, then, the suit should not have been filed. But apparently, PVG was not acting objectively. So why should anyone trust his decisions on the Cheri Moore case?

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  8. Or any other case!

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  9. Because it matters - these are the comments off the Times Standard's site relating to this editorial - the postings of Jamie Flower in particular demand to be addressed, and countered with the facts. These outrageous lies must stop.

    unanonymous Tamaroa, IL
    Friday Jan 25
     
    PALCO submitted landslide data collected by its consultant, Pacific Watershed Associates (PWA). After review PWA and other State, Federal, and PL reviewers concluded the data needed to be revised.

    The revised data was submitted as soon as it was ready. This is how science works. It is not fraud. PALCO had no way of knowing the data needed correction before submitting. Gallegos knew this, Ken Miller Knew this. Maybe they should be sued for fraud and mis-representation.

    chiguy31 Colorado Springs, CO
    Friday Jan 25
     
    Hey Guys:

    You are now saying what a lot of people knew before the last election. How about an apology to Humboldt County for endorsing Gallegos so consistently? You were wrong and contributed to the problem with your misplaced endorsement.

    anon San Francisco, CA
    Friday Jan 25
     
    I would have to agree with Chiguy - but I do thank the TS ed staff for starting to see the light.

    Albeit a little late.

    Not A Native Arcata, CA
    Friday Jan 25
     
    Not prevailing in a particular case isn't an adequate reason to question an attorney's judgement. If the TS actually believes that our justice system as fair, then it should acknowledge that the purpose of courts is to resolve, peacefully, differences of opinion and asking for court review of a dispute is an act that strengthens democracy. The alternative has been activists and PALCO subordinates fighting in the forests.

    The TS implies there has been prosecutorial malfeasence, but hasn't given any facts to support that assertion. A close reading of the appellate decision shows it agrees that some case law supports the DA's position, but the Court decided those cases were not the most appropriate in the PALCO situation. Simply losing a case isn't tantamont to malfeasence.

    I think the TS is actually fanning the flames of conflict that is claims to be putting out.

    anon San Francisco, CA
    Friday Jan 25
     
    Listen Gallegos entire record are the facts of his prosecutorial malfeasance AND misfeasance.

    Read the decision Not A Native!

    Jean Snell Arkansas City, KS
    Friday Jan 25
     
    The saga is not over until the county determines what the DA spent on this fiasco and makes it public.

    A request to Roger Rodino for the number comes up with a we can't seem to find out sort of response.

    Roger, you know better, what is the number?

    Old Timer Hayward, CA
    Friday Jan 25
     
    Part of the traditional way of Humboldt life is to kill Wiyot women and children. Boy I long for the good old days.

    Chainsaw Eureka, CA
    Friday Jan 25
     
    Not A Native, there's plenty of evidence of, at the very least, misfeasance on the part of the DA. It is pretty clear from reading the Freeborn ruling. The underpinning of the DA's case was the contention that the consultant's botched report was submitted to CDF during the permit application process for the Headwaters agreement. That is a formal process with much more liability for the applicant than lobbying. The DA's contention was based on a factual error that provided the basis for the first motion to dismiss. The botched report was sent to the Water Quality Control Board, not CDF. The water board was not the authority in the permitting process. The water board forwarded the botched report to CDF of their own volition. In response to the first motion to dismiss, the DA filed an amended complaint that did not correct the error from their first complaint, but obfuscated it with purposefully vague language. That is misfeasance and possibly malfeasance. Gallegos' obligation was to withdraw the complaint and he should have fired Tim Stoen at that point. But then, his obligations take a back seat to concocting cases to settle political scores: the Palco case, the Debi August case, and now the EPD/Cheri Moore case. Strike one, strike two....

    Anonymous Hayward, CA
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    Who care? It is Dumbolt people raping Dumbolt people. The world is better off.

    unanonymous Logan, IL
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    thanks chainsaw. Gallegos lied and the neo-libs cried.

    Local Eureka, CA
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    I think this is his only case in six years, right?

    I have never read of him trying any other cases. Not a single murder case. Not a single abuse case.

    And he just turns a blind eye when the cops basicly kill a crazy woman.

    unanonymous Logan, IL
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    That is what happens when you vote a second rate pot defense lawyer into office as the County DA.

    Anonymous Sonoma, CA
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    "Self-aggrandizement " as motivation seems far-fetched, but what can we expect from an editor who didn't live here during those events? I think perhaps "naive" might best describe the DA's state of mind when he filed that lawsuit.

    unanonymous Logan, IL
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    naive, I disagree, stupid and full of himself, I agree.

    gmf Lakehead, CA
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    Actually "self aggrandizement" is pretty accurate.

    PVG as DA has had a significant negative effect on the quality of life for everyday citizens. Of course pot growers and child molesters seem to having a nice break.

    A good editorial !!

    unanonymous Logan, IL
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    I agree, but the editorial was short on facts as usual. see posts by me and chainsaw. Their view of what occurred in court does not agree with teh actual opinions written by the judges.

    Wally Eureka, CA
    Saturday Jan 26
     
    Somehow I just can't see this as a SAGA; a herioc tale handed down by oral tradition. I didn't notice any heroes involved.

    Jamie Flower Menlo Park, CA
    Sunday Jan 27
     
    Gallegos tried to stop the decades-long pattern of rape by Hurwitz's Maxxam Corp, rape of the land and rape of our pocketbooks. He didn't succeed; Terry Farmer didn't even try.

    I've lawyered around here for 17 years and could tell you stories of bad court decisions that would make a compassionate person cry for those on the losing side. Appellate judges aren't elected, they're appointed. They got their jobs primarily through politicking their connections, not honesty or competency. They are immune from any personal consequences of their words. They're a lot like the anonymous cowards on this blog. And I have about as much respect for their opinions, by and large.
    Looking forward: All right you brave Mr. and Ms. Xs, name your pick of candidates to run against Gallegos next election.

    Jamie Flower of Arcata Menlo Park, CA
    Sunday Jan 27
     
    1. I believe PL deliberately hid the fact that it was revising its data, by submitting it to the fewest (one) and least involved government offices it could find. And you, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous Coward, have no way of knowing what Gallegos or his supporters knew or didn't know.

    2. There's a larger issue: even assuming the court decision was legally correct, why is there a law that makes it legal to lie, as long as you're lying to the government while seeking its permission for your business plan? Has any of you anonymous cowards ever enjoyed that privilege?

    unanonymous wrote:
    PALCO submitted landslide data collected by its consultant, Pacific Watershed Associates (PWA). After review PWA and other State, Federal, and PL reviewers concluded the data needed to be revised.
    The revised data was submitted as soon as it was ready. This is how science works. It is not fraud. PALCO had no way of knowing the data needed correction before submitting. Gallegos knew this, Ken Miller Knew this. Maybe they should be sued for fraud and mis-representation.

    Jamie Flower of Arcata Menlo Park, CA
    Sunday Jan 27
     
    Thanks, Jean, for giving us a name to go with your opinion. Do you recall that when Gallegos took the case he asked the Supervisors to hire a top law firm to handle it, on a contingency basis? Do you recall that the Supervisors said No? Perhaps that's why Roger can't put his finger on the cost; he bears more responsiblity for the cost that Gallegos does.

    Are you aware that our County Counsel takes no case outside its few very narrow areas of expertise, but rather farms them out to private firms, for three figures per hour, win or lose? How about asking some questions about that? The pepper spray case is a good example. You probably wanted the protestors to lose, but that's not a reason to question why our County Counsel couldn't have defended the case herself and saved us millions.

    Jean Snell wrote:
    The saga is not over until the county determines what the DA spent on this fiasco and makes it public.
    A request to Roger Rodino for the number comes up with a we can't seem to find out sort of response.
    Roger, you know better, what is the number?


    Jamie Flower of Arcata Menlo Park, CA
    Sunday Jan 27
     
    Dear Mr. or Ms. Anonymous Coward: Gallegos' personal conviction record makes Terry Farmer look like People's Court. He'd won 11 of twelve even before Worth Dikeman ran against him. As for the other kinds of cases you mention, I do think you're being honest in a strange sort of way. You just say you haven't read of these cases. You're probably the type who sees by the headline that the article will support someone you've already lined up against, so you just don't read it.

    Local wrote:
    I think this is his only case in six years, right?
    I have never read of him trying any other cases. Not a single murder case. Not a single abuse case.
    And he just turns a blind eye when the cops basicly kill a crazy woman.

    Yobaby Eureka, CA
    Sunday Jan 27
     
    Ahh, now you're back to trying to put this on the shoulders of the BOS for not allowing outside council for this pos lawsuit that was literally LAUGHED out of court.

    Chainsaw Eureka, CA
    Tuesday Jan 29
     
    "1. I believe PL deliberately hid the fact that it was revising its data, by submitting it to the fewest (one) and least involved government offices it could find. And you, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous Coward, have no way of knowing what Gallegos or his supporters knew or didn't know.

    2. There's a larger issue: even assuming the court decision was legally correct, why is there a law that makes it legal to lie, as long as you're lying to the government while seeking its permission for your business plan? Has any of you anonymous cowards ever enjoyed that privilege?"

    The notion that PL tried to deceive the permitting agencies has been refuted by the courts. Our great lawyer friend on these boards clearly didn't understand the rulings. Not a very good lawyer. Gallegos and Stoen were advised by CDF and DFG that their case was defective. They should have listened.

    The Noerr-Pennington doctrine that regards lobbying speech as protected under the First Amendment is the same doctrine that allows the Sierra Club to say whatever fool thing they want to say while lobbying. It covers lobbying, not the permit process. The botched report was not submitted as part of the permit process. If Mr. Flower understood the rulings, he would have realized that.

    Brenda _ Fortuna CA San Francisco, CA
    Thursday Jan 31
     
    " Self-aggrandizement " That is a nice way of saying it! Gallegos is at it again with his newest case that will garner him more national attention at the cost of the taxpayers as he proceeds to trial against our police officials.

    How much will this one cost us and how many years will he drag it out for the sake of his publicity seeking madness?

    long time here Eureka, CA
    Saturday Feb 2
     
    The county spent over a million dollars with an outside law firm to defend the right to use pepper spray on non-violent protesters. In the end, they lost the case.

    Did this divide the community? Was it worth it just to protect a political tactic (one approved of by the last DA), a tactic they had stopped using, but were willing to spend all this money to protect the "right" to continue to use? Was the TS outraged?

    No one has answered the bigger question, what if any other cases has the DA filed besides the PL lawsuit? Will the TS report on his entire record, or just obsess on the ones they think will created controversy and sell papers (or do you law enforcement haters object to the DA getting murder convictions also?)

    Rose watchpauldotblog spot Eureka, CA
    1 min ago
     
    What Jamie fails to mention is that Gallegos came before the Board with a DRAFT contract with Cotchett's firm - was told that he could come back with a more complete proposal - and HE NEVER DID! All this hoopla, all this continued rancor over the Board saying NO to signing on with Cotchett - and the continued spreading of the lies is getting old, Jamie.

    You also leave out the fact that Stoen told the Board that all he needed was a couple of expert witnesses, a few pieces of paper and this case was a slam dunk, that it would be over in two days. He failed to explain why he needed Cotchett if that was the case.

    You also leave out the fact that Stoen got hired at the TOP of the salary scale, and that he only had that ONE case to handle, while other prosecutors in the office, by Gallegos' own admission handled some 550 cases. Stoen ended up handling less than 10 cases, Jamie? Two or three maybe?

    It became apparent that Stoen was accustomed to winning his cases by trying them in the press and scaring his targets into settling or pleading out, putting another notch in his belt, the big bad scary man behind the curtain.

    Well, that curtain was pulled back, Jamie, when Debi August said NO, and fought back. What happened then, Jamie, should offend you to your very core - as it was revealed that her civil rights had been so violated that it would be impossible for her to receive a fair trial, because documents were missing from the evidence that was being presented against her. YOU should be raising the roof in disgust. YOU should be calling for Gallegos to resign. You would be if he went after one of your clients.

    Then, the Palco case got thrown out because it had no basis in law - three times, Jamie - after he amended it and amended it and amended it and finally appealed its tossing to the 1st DistrIct Court of Appeals. He wrote his brief a few days before it was due, he went in and spouted rhetoric about the right to lie instead of the law, and the justices LAUGHED, Jamie. Then they ruled against him.

    The facts are there. The facts are documented.

    Quit pulling this crap.

    Rose watchpauldotblog spot Eureka, CA

    Jamie also fails to mention that the cases Gallegos won were prepped by the experienced prosecutors who are no longer with the office. He has lost all except for TWO of the talent that Humboldt County has invested in. He has had a dismal time getting new people to come and work here because Humboldt County's DA's Office is a laughingstock across the state and no one wants to come work here under the chaotic conditions that exist here.

    Of the cases Gallegos won, one was just overturned on appeal because of Gallegos glaring errors, and then lost when one of the new and not very experienced attorneys tried to redo it.

    But the worst part of it, is the complete and utter degradation of some very important programs - the Child Abuse Services Team (CAST) and the Victim Witness Unit. Gallegos knows, and Jamie knows that this is the truth. Gallegos was put on notice during the last election that these programs needed attention and he has done nothing since then to fix them, to secure new grants, to protect the people who work for the DA's office or to protect the children who need help or the victims of crimes who are trying to deal with the overwhelming system.

    Just find out how many child abuse cases have been tried in the last 2 years.

    Say what you will about Terry Farmer - and not everyone liked him - he built a dynamite team of experienced prosecutors, and established these important programs, some of which were models for the state - we once had a cutting edge DA's Office - now we have, what's the nicest way to put it? A disaster.

    The facts are coming out, Jamie. The reporters aren't being fooled by rhetoric anymore. They know they have been lied to. Plagiarized My Words and all.

    The Times Standard's editorial was right on the money. So is Hank's in this week's Journal.

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