Lord willin’ and the creeks don’t rise….
First, coal industry officials seem likely to appeal today’s [anti-mountaintop removal] decision by U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin. It will be most interesting to see what the Obama administration does — whether they appeal and, even if they don’t, what position the Justice Department takes in any industry appeal, given President Barack Obama’s stated opposition to this mining practice (see here and here).
Next, environmental group lawyers on Monday filed their formal request that the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision to overturn the previous mountaintop removal decision by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers.
For those who don’t know, federal appeals court generally handle most cases through three-judge panels that are allegedly picked randomly. Covering the mountaintop removal appeals, it’s been hard to believe the panel selections are random, because a couple of the same judges — staunch conservatives Paul V. Niemeyer and J. Michael Luttig — kept drawing mining cases.
Now, Luttig is gone, having left for a job with Boeing after he was passed over by President George W. Bush for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. And the most recent 4th Circuit panel, which overturned Chambers, included a judge from West Virginia, M. Blane Michae. Michael voted in the minority to uphold Chambers, and he previously joined the circuit’s other West Virginia judge, Robert B. King, in a dissent when the full 4th Circuit declined to reconsider a panel decision overturning Judge Goodwin’s previous mountaintop removal ruling.