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Judge Rules Army To Blame For Katrina

From an overjoyed Associated Press:

Water is pumped out of New Orleans’ flooded Lower 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina.

Katrina negligence ruling may cost feds

November 19, 2009

NEW ORLEANS — The federal government could be vulnerable to billions of dollars in claims after a judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers’ failure to properly maintain a navigation channel led to massive flooding in Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval on Wednesday awarded seven plaintiffs $720,000, but the government could eventually be forced to pay much more. The ruling should give more than 100,000 other individuals, businesses and government entities a better shot at claiming damages.

Duval sided with six residents and one business who argued the Army Corps’ shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet led to the flooding of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward and neighboring St. Bernard Parish. He said, however, the corps couldn’t be held liable for the flooding of eastern New Orleans, where two of the plaintiffs lived

Duval referred to the corps’ approach to maintaining the channel as “monumental negligence.”

Joe Bruno, one of the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, said the ruling underscored the Army Corps’ long history of not properly protecting the New Orleans region.

“It’s high time we look at the way these guys do business and do a full re-evaluation of the way it does business,” Bruno said…

During trial testimony, government lawyers and experts argued the levee system was overwhelmed by the massive storm, and levee breaches couldn’t solely be blamed on the shipping channel dug in the 1960s as a short-cut between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans.

The corps had also unsuccessfully argued that it is immune from liability because the channel is part of New Orleans’ flood control system.

In his 156-page ruling, Duval said he was “utterly convinced” that the corps’ failure to shore up the channel “doomed the channel to grow to two to three times its design width” and that “created a more forceful frontal wave attack on the levee” that protected St. Bernard and the Lower 9th Ward.

“The Corps had an opportunity to take a myriad of actions to alleviate this deterioration or rehabilitate this deterioration and failed to do so,” Duval said. “Clearly the expression ‘talk is cheap’ applies here.”

Ahead of Duval’s ruling, experts had said it would likely have consequences for the way the Army Corps does business nationwide.

Pierce O’Donnell, another lead plaintiffs lawyer, said the ruling was the “first time ever the Army Corps has been held liable for damages for a major catastrophe that it caused.”

The plaintiffs lawyers would like Congress to set up a compensation fund to speed up payments to the thousands of others whose claims must still be heard in court

The lawsuit was the first major case against the federal government over Katrina flooding to go to trial. A decision rested with Duval because a jury cannot try a case against the federal government.

This preposterous ruling seems to prove to us that talk isn’t cheap. At least not Judge Duval’s obviously expert opinings.

Still, isn’t this wonderful news? Now hundreds of thousands of people will be able to exact payment from the US taxpayer for damages caused by a hurricane striking a city that is below sea level and surrounded on three sides by water.

Putting aside for a moment all of the local corruption down in New Orleans, which surely was an obstacle to the US Army Corp of Engineers – this is still the US Army.

Or military is usually the only organization that people can point to when they want to cite something run by the government that does a good job.

But just think, if even the US Army can’t be trusted to maintain a few levees in New Orleans – what is going to happen when the government takes over the massive burden of healthcare for the entire nation? (And how many lawsuits will there be when they fail?)

By the way, you may not recognize the name of the judge in this case, Stanwood Richardson Duval, Jr.

He is best known for having issued an injunction in 2000 which barred Louisiana from issuing "Choose Life" vanity license plates, which the legislature had approved in 1999.

Judge Duval ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood of America, which claimed that the the plates violated the First Amendment. Judge Duval’s opinion was unanimously reversed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on April 13, 2005.

Needless to say, Judge Duval is a Bill Clinton appointee.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Thursday, November 19th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Judge Rules Army To Blame For Katrina”

  1. Rusty Shackleford

    Here’s a very telling article from Jarvis DeBerry, and tell me if he doesn’t contradict himself:

    Jarvis DeBerry: Did a corrupt Orleans Levee Board cause flooding? Will a corrupt Corps of Engineers?

    http://blog.nola.com/jarvisdeb.....ption.html

    By Jarvis Deberry
    August 13, 2009, 5:48PM

    Among the many myths circulating after Hurricane Katrina was the description of the innocent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which dispensed all the money New Orleans needed but got swindled by the corrupt and brutish Orleans Levee Board.

    OK, so follow the bouncing ball on this. It’s a myth.

    Myths are created for a reason, and the reason for this one was obvious. Before word spread about the maddening behavior of the local Levee Board, blame for the widespread flooding was focused exclusively on the corps. Blaming the hacks at the Levee Board, therefore, served the interests of those hacks laboring to minimize the federal government’s culpability.

    So, there was talk of the maddening behavior of the levee board, which is legit, as he later states, but Jarvis then attacks the “myth” that the federal government was blameless.

    If they could just show that the Levee Board was problematic — and what sentient being could not? — they could argue that New Orleans brought its flooding on itself. Local corruption leads to flooding which leads to death.

    So right here he begins to dissemble his own argument by indicating that the Levee Board was culpable.

    Myths prevail where people refuse to think.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Jarv.

    A thoughtful analysis of the Katrina flooding reveals that corruption at the Levee Board, though disgraceful, had nothing to do with the Corps of Engineers building flimsy floodwalls. The people who died in their attics perished because the flood protection system constructed by the corps was, in the agency’s words, “a system in name only,” not because the Levee Board was a cesspool of cronyism.

    Thanks for pointing out the disgraceful corruption of the Levee Board.

    What Jarvis fails to mention here is that repeatedly in the 90’s and early 2000’s, N.O. was told about the need to shore up the levee walls and do much-needed maintenance on same. Why it never happened is unknown, though I suspect it has something to do with the corruption in the Levee Board.

    He also points out that “people died in their attics as a result of the federal government’s negligence”, or so it would seem. However, it seems to me when a Hurricane is bearing down on a city that is below sea level that one would be best advised to evacuate in, oh, say, one of the hundreds of available school buses.

    But those who insist on criticizing New Orleans by drawing a link between corruption and death would do well to acknowledge the corruption that’s been unearthed in the Corps of Engineers. A career employee pleaded guilty Wednesday to accepting bribes in exchange for steering contracts to companies doing work in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Gloria Martinez, a 61-year-old Gretna resident and a 26-year employee of the corps, admitted in court that she steered more than $74 million in corps contracts to a series of contractors that employed her sister. For perspective’s sake, consider that in the late ’90s, the Orleans Levee Board’s annual budget was about $25 million.

    Gretna is deep in the heart of N.O. So, perhaps there might be something to the “mentality of corruption” after all. It’s not like she lived in D.C., which, as we know, is a completely different level of corruption.

    And a paltry sum to say the least as much more was needed to maintain the levee system. Why wasn’t this corruption discovered BEFORE the hurricane? Lack of due diligence might be implied. Additionally, the actions of one individual do not indicate that the entire system was at fault. In fact, Jarvis points out that 74 million dollars, and most likely a whole lot more was sent to NO in the hopes that it would be spent on, oh…I’m just guessing, New Orleans, maybe.

    The Levee Board would have needed to devote three years exclusively to bribery to equal the corruption Martinez, a corps contracts specialist, pulled off between 2005 and 2007.

    According to court documents, in exchange for helping Lebanese companies get corps contracts Martinez and her sister Dinorah Cobos collected $475,000 in cash, jewelry, salary, living expenses and housing.

    Our country has troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Their lives are constantly on the line, and it is the corps’ mission to provide engineering services that increase those soldiers’ likelihood of success. Maybe Martinez supports the agency’s mission overseas, but she seemed at least as interested in how she could use her power as a contracts specialist to enrich herself and her sister.

    Based on Martinez’s greed, what conclusions are we to make about the Corps of Engineers? Can we say that their every project is suspect? That everybody who works for the agency is tainted? If the corps messes up in the future, will this $74 million bribery scandal be mentioned? Should it be?

    Here is yet another ad hominem argument. Diminish the individual and thus, you can diminish the entity she works for.

    Jarvis, this is a poor piece of writing and your citation of “facts” is pathetic. I thought I might learn something by reading a local bloggers opinion and yes, indeed I have.

  2. proreason

    Wait a minute. Wait just a goldarned minute.

    It’s Bush’s fault. Bushhitler did it, not the army.

    Bush and global warming.

    But since Bushhitler didn’t make the oceans recede like the Boy King has, it was him more than global warming.

  3. BannedbytheTaliban

    Breaking news from the US Constitution:

    The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

    Damn that pesky Constitution! Always getting in the way of social justice. Maybe we should elect a constitutional scholar as POTUS?

  4. This judge has got to be the biggest joke of all………….Oh, wait………besides the Obama administration!

  5. Confucius

    I’m surprised no one is blaming God.

  6. Chuckk

    Hasn’t the government already given N.O. billions of dollars? In light of this suit they should take it back.

    I would like to know why the levees were built to withstand category 3 hurricanes when the city is built below sea level in “hurricane alley.” Sounds like government planning, but which government? The city, state, fed, or the Army?

  7. sheehanjihad

    I would like to know….for the hell of it….where DID the over 6 BILLION dollars end up? Who actually got it? I mean, really! Where the hell did it go? %^&#$@!!!

  8. proreason

    “the chief business of the American people is business”

    Calvin Coolidge – Jan 17, 1925

    “The chief business of the American liberal con artist is scamming taxpayers”

    proreason – Nov 19, 2009




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