Ray Ring on Judge Molloy Opinions

photo by Kurt Wilson of the Missoulian

see this piece in High Country News.. entitled “How Green is Judge Molloy?”. It’s related to some of the discussion topics on this blog, including the ever-popular “impact of litigation on FS actions, especially in Montana.”

Many plaintiffs engage in “venue shopping.” Environmentalists take their cases whenever possible to Molloy and a few other notable federal judges, including B. Lynn Winmill in Boise (the primary watchdog on livestock grazing) and James Redden in Portland (the salmon champion), who were also appointed by Democratic presidents.

But picking your judge doesn’t guarantee victory. Molloy — who gets a lot of environmental cases simply because of his location — still rules against environmentalists more than half the time, says one lawyer who’s often in his court. Another frequent lawsuit-filer quickly names five timber sales that Molloy approved over his objections; all five were ultimately blocked by an appeals court.

Environmentalists don’t even agree on what they want from the judge. In last year’s grizzly case, for instance, the National Wildlife Federation agreed with the government, saying that the endangered species law didn’t need to be reapplied. That group, along with other pro-hunting groups such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, also backed the feds’ latest deal on wolves.

Molloy actually paddles his legal canoe more or less in the middle of the river. And despite complaints from some environmentalists, they still have better odds in his courtroom than in many others in the West.

More than anything, Molloy’s wolf ruling shows how environmental laws can sometimes block pragmatic and political solutions. And it underscores our basic psychology about judges: When they rule against you, they’re biased, but when they rule for you, they’re going on the facts.

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