Recently there has been much consternation about the ruling of U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval, dismissing the class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over levee breaches after Hurricane Katrina.
Judge Stanwood, as reported by AP also had some choice words for the corps saying
... the agency "cast a blind eye" in protecting New Orleans and "squandered millions of dollars in building a levee system ... which was known to be inadequate by the Corps' own calculations."
But, Duval said, "it is not within the Court's power to address the wrongs committed. It is hopefully within the citizens of United States' power to address the failures of our laws and agencies."
Duval agreed that legal and bureaucratic change is required.
"The byzantine funding and appropriation methods for this undertaking were in large part a cause of this failure," the judge said, referring to the politics-riddled process Congress has for funding Corps projects.
The Flood Control Act is counterproductive, Duval said, because it negates incentives for good government workmanship and creates an environment where "gross incompetence receives the same treatment as simple mistake."He is inviting higher courts to find a way to fix this. Whether they will on not is "over his pay grade". Hopefully they will.
The legal battle has just begun.
Pretty much every lawyer I've talked to has said that the only real hope is to get a higher court to find a reason to rule that the Flood Protection Act is wrong, flawed, unconstitutional or interpreted improperly.
That is the job of the higher courts. Maybe this judge has done us a favor by dismissing on those grounds now, leading to a speedy appeal.
If the case were tried it would take years and the same appeal would still be filed by the Corps. If we're lucky the appeal will succeed and the case remanded to the lower court to try.