Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Fighting for Our Right to Irrigate Our Farms and Caretake Our Natural Resources

Meeting with Saltman & Stevens, KBC report

March 15, 2003

A meeting put on by Saltman and Stevens Law firm took place today in Tulelake, with partners Gary Stevens, Alan Saltman and Kevin Garden. The message was basically the same as the last  meeting with two modifications. Potential clients can sign on to the law suit without committing until the suit has reached $30 million. Then they will have five days to decide if they want to commit. Also there is a Plan B, where clients can choose not to pay the up front fee, but pay more on the success bonus.

There are several differences between what Saltman & Stevens would do and what Marzulla is doing. The Marzulla firm specializes in takings, and is one of the top firms for this. However, the takings case may be stayed until the adjudication is completed. According to Garden, "While the Takings lawsuit filed by Mr. Marzulla has not moved forward since April of 2002 when the government requested to stay any further proceedings in that case until the state water adjudication process was over, the Takings case has not been formally stayed by the Court.....  The lack of any formal decision on the part of the Court has been a source of frustration by all interested parties because it has given the government, for all practical purposes, a stay since last summer." This could take a generation or two. Marzulla is now trying to amend this with a Breach of Contract. The problem is that, though Marzulla's firm are experts at takings, they have little experience with Breach proceedings.

This is where Saltman and Stevens Firm comes in. They have been doing Breach suits for over 20 years and are one of the top firms in this area. They have won 19 out of 21 cases, with two others on appeal. Some of their clients are Roseburg Forest Products, Weyerhaeuser, Willamette Industries, Collins Pine, Crown Pacific and Superior Lumber.

The Breach of Contract suit is much faster, cheaper, and more flexible than a Takings suit. Also, the breach suit accrues interest from the filing of the suit, whereas the takings does not. The suit can be taken before the Court of Federal Claims or the Interior Board of Contract Appeals, depending on which is the more advantageous.

Gary Stevens talked on the prospects of the suit for the Klamath Basin. He has a great deal of experience dealing with junk science. "The choice of government science should be based on good science." The science used in the Basin was biased, he felt. Another advantage of the Breach suit is that the scientists who recommended the water shut-off can be called into court to be cross-examined and defend their science. The NAS peer review of the science should give this case a high probability of success, as well as the recent paper by  NRC chairman, William Lewis. (See front page for link to this paper.)

Kevin Garden added that irrigators can remain in the takings case if they choose to join the Breach case.

The attorneys then fielded questions from the audience:
    The Silvery Minnow case, if it has a positive outcome, will help this case, but is not  necessary. 
    The government "science" had no basis on facts. There was no foundation for a decision to shut off water.
    Their past Breach suits have taken 18-36 months for resolution, depending on how hard the government fights.
    There is a good chance of settlement before this goes to court.
    A win could lower the chance of another water cut-off.
    Stevens & Saltman tried to work with Marzulla, but the latter said no.

The more clients involved in the suit, the less expensive it will be for each one. This is why the would like at least $30 million in claims before they take it on. As of now, they have about $10 million.

For more information see their web site: www.saltmanandstevens.com/

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