The Hopi, Navajo and other tribes that hold the San Francisco Peaks sacred fear contamination and desecration from a wastewater-to-snow project.

Ralph Nader and Friends Petition Full Panel Hearing on Sanction of San Francisco Peaks Attorney

Gale Courey Toensing

Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader and a group of individuals and nonprofit organizations interested in protecting the sacred San Francisco Peaks from spiritual and environmental degradation have petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a full panel rehearing of a recent ruling that imposed sanctions on the pro bono attorney for the Save the Peaks Coalition. The amici curiae, or friends of the court brief, was filed on July 16 by Nader; Myles V. Lynk; Gary Marchant; Association on American Indian Affairs; Native American Rights Fund; Women’s Earth Alliance; Suzan Shown Harjo’s Morning Star Institute, and the Center for Biological Diversity. On June 21 a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled that environmental and Indian rights attorney Howard Shanker, who has worked pro bono for more than six years to prevent a ski business from using recycled human waste to make fake snow on the ski trails, acted in “bad faith,” that he “grossly abused the judicial process,” and “misled his clients” and held him “personally liable for excessive costs for unreasonably multiplying proceedings.” The amici petitioners argue that the ruling “will have the unforeseen and deleterious effect of reducing the availability of pro bono legal representation for those most in need of such representation. All Amici Petitioners have an interest in ensuring ready access to pro bono legal representation, particularly for public interest claims in controversial, high-risk cases.” They express concern that the panel’s sanction order departs from precedent because it infers “bad faith” intent that is not supported by evidence in the record. Petitioners also refute the panel’s claim that the Save the Peaks lawsuit “unreasonably multiplied proceedings” because it was a “surrogate” for an earlier lawsuit filed by the Navajo Nation against the ski area’s snowmaking plans. “Indeed, the district court expressly rejected the argument that the Save the Peaks plaintiffs were acting as proxies for the Navajo Nation plaintiffs,” the petition says. Read more on the battle to save the San Francisco Peaks.

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