Friday, October 1, 2010

"My Client is Over a Barrel, Your Honor"

Posted By on Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 11:01 AM

More than 100 people packed into Idaho Supreme Court this morning, and when Citydesk asked Clerk of the Courts Stephen Kenyon if the turnout was unusual he said, "We usually get about three [people]. Six tops."

And that set the stage for the much anticipated hearing on the fate of four mega-truckloads currently blocked from rolling from the port of Lewiston across U.S. Highway 12.

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Justice Jim Jones cut through a fair amount of legal-speak when he bluntly asked attorneys for the Idaho Transportation Department and ConocoPhillips,"How did those giant drums make it to Lewiston to begin with? What gave Conoco the idea that they should ship those across the Pacific if the ITD hadn't granted any permits?"

"It was a business decision," deadpanned ITD attorney Lawrence Allen.

Erik Stidham, lawyer for Conoco, was a bit more sheepish.

"At this stage your honor, my client is over a barrel."

Nervous laughter followed.

Jones followed up," There's really nowhere else for them to go, is there?"

"Not if ITD isn't allowed to grant a permit," said Stidham.

Three central Idaho residents initiated the litigation, citing concerns about their safety and property. They took their case to 2nd District Judge John Bradbury, who revoked ITD's permits to allow the Conoco loads to roll. That, in turn, prompted today's special hearing on the matter.

Justice Warren Jones returned to his main concern throughout the 60-minute hearing.

"I'm not sure whether the court even has jurisdiction here, since it was not a legally contested case," said Jones.

"This was more an informal proceeding," conceded Laurence Lucas, attorney for the plaintiffs. "All I know is that one day, ITD announced they had granted a permit and these loads were going to roll within the next day or two and we had to do something."

The high court traditionally takes an average of 60 days to hand down a decision. The shortest time frame has been two weeks, the longest nine months.

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