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7th Circuit won’t make Indiana rip up section of I-69

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected environmental activists’ arguments that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to adequately address impact on wetlands when it issued permits for a recently completed section of Interstate 69 in southern Indiana.

The opinion in Hoosier Environmental Council and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads v. United States Army Corps of Engineers and Indiana Department of Transportation, 12-3187, won’t do anything to slow future construction of I-69 between Evansville and Indianapolis. But the court also pointed out that just because the section of interstate south of Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center is finished, the litigation is not necessarily moot, as the state argued.

“A case is moot only if ‘it is impossible for a court to grant any effectual relief whatever to the prevailing party,” Judge Richard Posner wrote for the panel. “One possibility for relief in this case would be an injunction requiring the defendants to rip up section 3 (of I-69) and recreate the wetlands it has destroyed. … That would be an extreme measure, unlikely to be ordered, but the fact that relief is unlikely does not render a case moot.”

Posner also penned acerbic words for plaintiffs who he said could have challenged the project more effectively earlier.

“We find almost incomprehensible the plaintiffs’ failure, which they do not mention in their briefs and were unable to explain at the oral argument, to have sought a preliminary injunction against the construction of section 3 — or indeed against the construction of any segment of the I-69 project,” he wrote. “A motion for a preliminary injunction might well have been denied, but the denial of a preliminary injunction is immediately appealable and would have brought the litigation to a swifter conclusion. By their lassitude the plaintiffs have increased substantially the cost of the relief they seek, for now that cost would include the cost of destroying section 3; and the cost of an injunction is a material consideration in whether to grant it.”
 
The panel affirmed the ruling of Judge Larry McKinney of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, who held that the Corps evaluated all of the wetland-protection factors required in its approval of a Clean Water Act permit for the recently completed section of the interstate.

“The plaintiffs argue neither that the project as a whole is contrary to the public interest nor that it was sectioned in order to prevent consideration of its total environmental harms,” Posner wrote. “They may be playing a delay game: make the Corps do a public interest analysis from the ground up ... in the hope that at least until the analysis is completed there will be no further construction, so that until then the highway will end at the northernmost tip of section 3 — making it a road to nowhere.”

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  • Road to somewhere
    This is not just about connecting Evansville to Indianapolis, otherwise Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi would not be constructing I-69 in their own states.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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