Environment | Law

Appeals court sanctions lawyer in San Francisco Peaks litigation





The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today sanctioned attorney Howard Shanker for "grossly" abusing the judicial process in litigation to protect the sacred San Francisco Peaks in Arizona.

Shanker represented the Navajo Nation when the tribe sought to stop the use of reclaimed sewage in the peaks. After the 9th Circuit dismissed the case, he filed a new lawsuit on behalf of the Save the Peaks Coalition and individual Indian activists.

The 9th Circuit in February ruled against the activists and said Shanker should have known better to pursue the second case. That prompted the Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort located within the Coconino National Forest, to seek attorney's fees from the Save the Peaks Coalition.

In today's decision, the 9th Circuit said the Indian activists shouldn't have to pay fees because they "appear to have been misled" by Shanker. So the court sanctioned him instead and ordered proceedings to determine how much he should pay for the litigation.

"Because this entire case was designed to harass Snowbowl, we conclude that Snowbowl is entitled to an award of all costs other than attorney’s fees that it incurred in litigating Save the Peaks Coalition v. U.S. Forest Service before both the district court and our court," the 9th Circuit said. "We hereby award these costs to Snowbowl against Shanker personally."

The U.S. Forest Service approved the use of reclaimed sewage in the San Francisco Peaks. The Snowbowl plans to use the water to make fake snow.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Save the Peaks Coalition v. USFS.

9th Circuit Decision:
Save the Peaks Coalition v. USFS (June 21, 2012)

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BBC: Hopi Tribe battles reclaimed sewage at sacred peaks (10/20)
Editorial: Hopi Tribe lawsuit over fake snow seems misguided (9/1)
Earth 911: Skiing on reclaimed wastewater -- gross or green? (8/30)
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