Ken Salazar In Contempt
In June 2010, I reported on the preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in Lousiana that essntially called Ken Salazar a liar. Yesterday, the same federal judge held Ken Salazar, in his official capacity, in contempt of the preliminary injunction. The preliminary injunction had enjoined the government's moratorium on new drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico. In yesterday's order, the judge said,
The plaintiffs’ civil contempt claim focuses on the government’s imposition of a second blanket moratorium hurriedly on the heels of the first; plaintiffs argue that moratorium amounts to a flagrant and continuous disregard of the Court’s Order. But a finding of contempt of the preliminary injunction Order for that reason alone falls short. The plaintiffs read this Court’s preliminary injunction Order too broadly; that Order emerged from the Court’s finding that the plaintiffs were substantially likely to prove that the process leading to the first moratorium was arbitrary and capricious as a matter of law. As an answer to the plaintiffs’ quarrel with the second moratorium, the government maintains that it merely met the Court’s concerns and resolved each of the procedural deficiencies the Court found in the first. fn3 Perhaps. Under these facts alone, then, the Court could not, at least not clearly and convincingly, find the government in contempt of the preliminary injunction Order. See Singh, 428 F.3d at 582 (finding standard not satisfied when district court simply expressed doubts about the sincerity of a party’s compliance with an injunction order).Full opinion here. It would be a shame if the taxpayers had to foot this bill. In my opinion (not a legal opinion) Ken Salazar should be personally responsible for the legal fees assessed in this case. This is not a government debt, but a debt incurred by Salzar's lawless behavior. It was Salazar's willful disregard of lawful authority that caused the debt and he should pay for it.
There is, however, more to the story. The plaintiffs also stress that the government did not simply reimpose a blanket moratorium; rather, each step the government took following the Court’s imposition of a preliminary injunction showcases its defiance: the government failed to seek a remand; it continually reaffirmed its intention and resolve to restore the moratorium; it even notified operators that though a preliminary injunction had issued, they could quickly expect a new moratorium. Such dismissive conduct, viewed in tandem with the reimposition of a second blanket and substantively identical moratorium and in light of the national importance of this case, provide this Court with clear and convincing evidence of the government’s contempt of this Court’s preliminary injunction Order. To the extent the plaintiffs’ motion asserts civil contempt based on the government’s determined disregard of this Court’s Order of preliminary
injunction, it is GRANTED.
fn3 The government’s answer, however, is diminished by the Secretary’s undisputed public statements of determination to ban deepwater drilling out of his concern for systemic dangers. These public statements were silent about addressing the Court’s Order.