We’ll keep them coming, up through election day. You deserve to know how Jim Johnson gets things wrong. From the Rumbaugh campaign, the ill-reasoned dissent in Ferry County, whereby [soon to be Ret.] Justice Jim Johnson poo-poos science:
Date: July 22, 2010
Contact: Brendan Williams, (360) 791-3979
In 2005’s Ferry County v. Friends of Ferry County, the County was updating its comprehensive plan. The Growth Management Hearings Board, trial court, appellate court, and Supreme Court all agreed “that Ferry County failed to demonstrate inclusion of best available science (BAS) in listing only two species as endangered, threatened, or sensitive (ETS) in its critical areas ordinance.” The County ignored the recommendations of other authorities, like the State Department of Fish and Wildlife which “recommended that Ferry County list 12 species as ETS.”
The Court found that the County’s decision-making process failed to incorporate “a sound, reasoned process which includes best available science.” Rather than using the State guidelines or other authority, the County exclusively relied on a local retired biologist. Before retiring he had spent his career out of state and for this project he did not consult with local experts, employ on-site observations in data gathering, provide explanation of methodology or submit his findings to peer review.
The majority of the Supreme Court correctly stood up for Washington’s law, impartiality, and transparency.
Justice Johnson, however, could not support such a position.
Instead, Johnson authored a sarcastic dissent designed to undermine Washington’s important science-based environmental protections.
Despite the well-documented positions of the State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, Johnson tries to spin the debate by claiming the majority’s “concern [with] the “environmental” groups” relies upon “undocumented species concerns” and reframes endangered species laws as an impossible requirement to “prove a negative”.
But Johnson doesn’t stop there:
“The result is analogous to requiring designation of critical habitat for the sasquatch, a species which the county and its biologist expert could not prove is not present. Repeated reports of sasquatch sightings do not, in my view, constitute “best available science” nor require counties to hire expensive experts to disprove its presence. As further noted below, this case is more extreme. Unlike the sasquatch, several of these supposed endangered species have no reported sightings in Ferry County.” [Emphasis added.]
Justice Chambers was so taken aback by Johnson’s dissent as to craft a majority concurrence specifically addressing the flaws:
“I am bemused by my learned colleague’s knowledge of “[r]epeated reports of sasquatch sightings”… [but]adopting the dissent’s position would require us to consistently substitute our judgment for the county and the growth management hearings board. That is not appropriate within our system of divided government.” [Emphasis added.]
Once again, Johnson’s toxic judicial activism prompted rebuke from his benchmates.
But neither the legislating from the bench nor the attack on science should come as a surprise to those familiar with his private practice work, where Johnson has history undermining endangered species protections.
Just the year before, Johnson had served as the attorney for big business—including campaign contributors the BIAW—in the Common Sense Salmon Recovery case, where he argued in federal court against the government in the matter inclusion of the Chinook Salmon on the Endangered Species List.
The June 2000 Fishermen’s News described opposition to the listing as spearheaded by “an extremist property rights legal defense group” and “a front for many of the industries who have profited handsomely from salmon habitat destruction over the years.”
In 2005 the U.S. District Court judge found attorney Johnson had failed to even state a valid claim worth trial—and simply dismissed the case on summary judgment.
The addition of a judicial robe obviously did not change Johnson’s views a year later.
Luckily in both cases Johnson was unsuccessful. But whether it be salmon, sasquatch or sprawl, environmental protections must rely on the most rigorous science in order to protect our resource economies, recreation, and health now and in the future. Our Supreme Court must join in this line of protection by impartially enforcing the laws as they come to them, not promoting personal ideological agendas at every turn.
See the Ferry County opinions here http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-supreme-court/1029981.html
See the Common Sense Salmon opinion here http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=10824665907697403157&hl=en&as_sdt=2&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr
For more information, please visit http://www.rumbaughforjustice.com
I urge you all to donate if you can. Even if its only a couple dollars, now is the time that Stan has to push to get his message heard!