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Posts published in “Day: March 6, 2007”

Former Idaho journalists (update)

We've had a bunch of reaction to the former Idaho journalists list (accessible through a page on the subject), and because of a slug of additional information, it's be expanded by almost half again.

And if you have more suggestions/updates/corrections/clarifications/whatever, pass them on and we'll update again.

A door-opening decision

Anderson Ranch Dam reservoir
Anderson Ranch Dam reservoir

The decision by the Idaho Supreme Court in the groundwater v. surface water case - American Falls v. Idaho Department of Water Resources - awaited for so many months with such trepidation, turned out to be an anticlimax.

And a good deal more limited in immediate application than a lot of people probably figured.

The case was set up as a showdown between the older (senior) water right holders, who had rights on the main surface water sources in southern Idaho, and the newer (junior) groundwater pumpers. The lower court decision, by Judge Barry Wood (a former presiding judge over the Snake River Basin Adjudication), was taken to have sided mostly with the surface water users, and the Supreme Court ruling, which overturned Wood's core conclusions, was thought to side mostly with the ground water people.

But it's a lot more convoluted than that, and the key participants in the case generally, on both sides, seem to have been wise enough to withhold their celebrations.

The decision more simply means that the state's established process for determining the relationship between surface and ground water, and the approach to regulating it, can go forward . . . to the extent it is able.

The decision offers plenty of room for interpretation and legal challenges of various sorts. And in some underlying ways, it was less a reversal of the Wood decision than some might think. If you doubt that, take a look at pages 7 and 8 of the decision, in which the justices (in an unusual gesture) said they appreciated much of Wood's logic, and added, "While this opinion does not reach those same conclusions, we nevertheless accept large parts of the district judge’s analysis and attempt to use his analysis to clarify our interpretation of the CM Rules."

More to come.

Behind McKay’s departure

John McKay
John McKay

Representative Doc Hastings may have some explaining to do: Was he pressuring the U.S. Attorney's office, then led by later-dismissed attorney John McKay, into doing partisan dirty work?

This might seem to come out of nowhere except for the context. A string of U.S. attorneys around the country (mainly around the west) were fired late last year; the one of the group from the Northwest was John McKay of western Washington, who was well-regarded locally. No explanation for the dismissal was given, either to McKay or publicly, and some weeks passed even before confirmation that in fact he was fired.

Since then, reasons for dismissal of several of the attorneys has surfaced, and they haven't been pretty. In New Mexico, for instance, firee David Iglesias said he felt "leaned on" by Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather Wilson to go ahead with prosecutions that would reflect badly on Democrats before than after the last general election. Other comparable stories have been emerging.

This morning, McKay, Iglesias and two counterparts from California and Arkansas testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is reviewing the dismissals. They prefaced by saying, "Recently, each of us was asked by Department of Justice officials to resign our posts. Each of us was fully aware that we served at the pleasure of the President, and that we could be removed for any or no reason. In most of our cases, we were given little or no information about the reason for the request for our resignations. This hearing is not a forum to engage in speculation, and we decline to speculate about the reasons."

But details of fact emerged anyway.