By Miriam Raftery
August 12, 2011 (San Diego) – U.S. Southern District Judge Roger Benitez has cancelled today’s hearing on local plaintiffs who seek an injunction to stop Sunrise Powerlink construction on federal lands. He will issue a ruling without hearing arguments, based solely on the written record.
Benitez had previously ruled in favor of SDG&E on a procedural technicality, finding plaintiffs lacked standing, but did not rule on the merits of the injunction itself. Three local groups that had filed the suit (Protect Our Communities Foundation, Backcountry Against Dumps, and East County Community Action Coalition) appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit instructed plaintiffs to ask Judge Benitez to rule directly on the injunction.
Plaintiffs have indicated that if Judge Benitez fails to grant the injunction, they will appeal to the 9th Circuit, a court with a reputation for being less corporate-friendly than some lower courts. It is unclear how long Judge Benitez will take to issue his decision.
News of the hearing cancellation sparked comments voicing frustration and outrage on a Facebook page that invited people to the court proceeding.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Myles Thurman wrote.
“Uphill all the way,” observed William Ortiz.
Another poster, Tricia Digenan, pledged to “keep a note of all judges that have ruled against us as I will make sure not to vote for them again,” also vowing to work against such judges in the next election.
Voting out Judge Benitez is not an option, however, since federal judges are appointed for life and cannot be removed except through impeachment, an action that requires a two-thirds vote by Congress.