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Authority and Westlands Water San Luis v. United States Dep't of the Interior

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


February 23, 2009

AUTHORITY AND WESTLANDS WATER SAN LUIS & DELTA-MENDOTA WATER DISTRICT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
SAVE SAN FRANCISCO BAY ASSOC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

ORDER RE PLAINTIFFS' REQUEST FOR CONTINUANCE OF HEARING ON MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

Environmental Plaintiffs in Save San Francisco Bay Association, et al., 1:98-CV-5261 OWW DLB, request a continuance of the hearing on the pending motion for reconsideration filed by Plaintiffs in the consolidated case, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, et al., ("SLDMWA") 1:97-CV-6140 OWW DLB, from its current hearing date of March 16, 2009 to a date in June 2009.

Counsel for Environmental Plaintiffs, Paul Allen Peters, Esq., of the Hines & Thomas firm, requests the continuance in light of the dissolution of Heller Ehrman LLP, which firm served as lead counsel for Environmental Plaintiffs through October 2008. See Doc. 713. Mr. Peters asserts:

The attorney[]s remaining involved have limited partner. We have focused our recent efforts on resources. This firm consists of myself and one other securing replacement counsel. In addition, on a in supporting my wife and newborn twins, who arrived personal note, for the last 7 days I have been engaged they are projected to stay for another 7-10 days. six weeks early and remain in intensive care, where their responsibilities in this case, but respectfully Environmental Plaintiffs can and will continue to meet request more time at this critical juncture to handle the pending motion.

Doc. 720 at 1.

SLDMWA opposes the continuance, primarily because Heller Ehrman has not played an active role in this case for some time. Although the firm withdrew as counsel of record in October 2008, SLDMWA maintains that "as a practical matter" the firm withdrew before then, noting that the motions for summary judgment were ultimately argued by Cynthia Koehler, Esq., because no Heller lawyer was available to argue. Doc. 712 at 2. SLDMWA acknowledges that Mr. Peters "now has personal circumstances that prevent him from arguing the motion, [but] [t]here is no explanation...why other, existing counsel of record cannot adequately argue [the case]." Id. SLDMWA also contends that it will be prejudiced by the delay, because, if, as they contend, the Department of the Interior is not properly accounting for (b)(2) water, contractors may lose water supply as a result.

Doc. 712-2 at 1.

Environmental Plaintiffs rejoin that responding to the motion in question will require more than just appearing at the hearing. Any opposition "must be fully briefed, and most likely, evidence [must be] adduced...." Doc. 722. According to Mr. Peters, the Heller Ehrman firm provided the briefing and the majority of the resources necessary to represent Environmental Plaintiffs to date. Environmental Plaintiffs further point out that SLDMWA made no effort to secure a rapid ruling on their motion, having filed their motion on November 18, 2008, while choosing a hearing date of March 16, 2008.

SLDMWA is correct that the pending motion for reconsideration is limited in scope and is based entirely on judicially noticeable documents. Accordingly, the briefing will not be extraordinarily complex. Nevertheless, given (a) Mr. Peters' representations as to Heller Ehrman's leadership role in briefing of and providing for this case, and (b) Mr. Peters' personal circumstances, a reasonable continuance is appropriate. The hearing on SLMDWA's pending motion for reconsideration is continued until May 1, 2009, at 10:00 a.m.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

20090223

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