Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Something's Amiss with Judge Recommending Settlement

Reposted from "Friends of  Black Rock" blog:

Judge Recommends Humboldt County Accept Settlement for Jungo Landfill from Recology Legal Team, her Former Law Partner

Nevadans Against Garbage, a grass roots organization formed to stop Recology’s (Jungo Land & Investment) Jungo Road landfill project has learned Judge Valerie P. Cooke, Federal District Court Magistrate, assigned to mediate lawsuits filed by Recology against Humboldt County and the individual Humboldt County Commissioners, was a partner in the prosecuting law firm representing Recology in these lawsuits. Judge Cooke was a partner in the law firm of McDonald, Carano, Wilson, McCune, Bergin, Frankovich & Hicks LLP prior to her appointment to District Court in 1999.(i) Recology’s (Jungo Land & Investment) attorney is John Frankovich, Managing Partner, of McDonald, Carano, Wilson LLP. Frankovich joined the firm in 1973.(ii) 

The proposed settlement terms between Recology (Jungo Land & Investment) and the Humboldt County Commissioners required the commissioners overturn their decision NOT to extend the Recology conditional use permit for another 5 years. (iii) It was this April, 2010 decision by the Commissioners, not to prolong the conditional use permit, that prompted the Recology lawsuits against the county as well as the individual county commissioners. A settlement to extend the permit flies in the face of Commissioner reasons NOT to extend the permit, and voter directive. 

Nevadans Against Garbage is calling for officials to look into this conflict of interest between Judge Cooke and Recology’s legal team, led by John Frankovich. N.A.G. is also questioning the recommendation by the legal team for Humboldt County to follow Judge Cooke’s recommendation. On December 20, the Commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the settlement agreement, in spite of the fact that voting to deny the settlment meant they were still on the hook for the individual lawsuits Recology has filed against them.

According to Stephen Balkenbush, the attorney assigned to represent the Humboldt County Public Insurance Pool, the proposed settlement terms between the county, individual commissioners, and Recology (Jungo Land & Investment) were recommended by Judge Cooke, and that she told “…all parties that she believes it is in the best interest of the parties to resolve this case in connection with the terms that are before the board today…”. (iv) Draw your own conclusions; but it seems Judge Cooke's recommendation comes at no surprize given her past relationship with Attorney Frankovich. Attorney Balkenbush also noted “…I concur with her position and that this matter should be resolved along these terms…” (v). Clearly, the insurance company has great legal representation, the Humboldt County Commissioners, may be not. 

The proposed Jungo Road Landfill would accept 4000 tons of non-recyclable California waste, via rail, 5 days per week, for 95 years. Recology is looking for an exception to Nevada statute to build the landfill closer to an active aquifer than the law allows. USGS studies on the aquifer feeds have not been completed. No environmental impact study has been required or provided. The conditional use permit for this project was approved when local ordinances did not allow for a second landfill. 

Please write Nevada officials and share your concerns about Judge Cooke's relationship with the prosecuting law firm and her direction to Humboldt County in the matter of settling this lawsuit.

Contact Information:
Stat Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea:
State Representative Ira Hansen: (part Humboldt County)
State Representative John Ellison: (part Humboldt County)
State Senator Dean Rhoads:
US Senator Ensign:
US Senator Reid:
US Rep. Heller:

Govenor Sandoval, State Capitol, 101 N. Carson Street, Carson City, NV 89701
(775) 684-5670  /  Fax: (775) 684-5683

NV Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto:
US Attorney General Eric Holder, US Department of Justice:

Reference Endnotes:
(i) Source Nevada US Court web site:
(ii) Source, McDonald Carano Wilson web site:
(iii) Proposed settlement terms at Humboldt County website:
(iv)Humboldt Sun, Volume 41, Issue 103, Dated 12/24-27, 2010, article “County Opts to go to Court” by Heather Gula
(iv) Humboldt Sun, Volume 41, Issue 103, Dated 12/24-27, 2010, article “County Opts to go to Court” by Heather Gula

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