Nor Cal Truth June 14, 2010
Lawyers for families of 9/11 victims have taken the unusual legal step of asking a federal appeals court in Manhattan to replace a judge overseeing a group of terrorism-financing lawsuits, saying he is moving too slowly in resolving key motions.
The judge, George B. Daniels of Federal District Court in Manhattan, has yet to rule on almost 100 motions by defendants to dismiss the case, the lawyers said in a petition to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The lawsuits before Judge Daniels seek to hold charities, financial institutions and other defendants responsible for providing money and other support to Al Qaeda and for the 9/11 attacks. The suits were originally consolidated before another judge, Richard Conway Casey; after Judge Casey’s death in 2007, the case was transferred to Judge Daniels.
The judge’s inaction is “effectively suspending the litigation,” the lawyers wrote, “and immunizing those alleged to have sponsored the attacks from having to answer for their conduct in this nation’s courts.”
The judge a history of long trials and after all, this is a big case:
Judge Daniels has allowed motions to linger in the past. In 2003, he was found to have 289 motions in civil cases pending for more than six months, easily the highest total of any federal judge at that time. But he has since cleared the backlog, leaving fewer than two dozen such motions pending.
The petition, filed this month, is not the first to criticize Judge Daniels’s pace in handling civil suits. In 2004, The New York Times described the judge’s high number of pending motions, as tabulated by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. The article said that in at least eight cases parties had asked the Second Circuit to order the judge to rule or perhaps send their cases to another judge.
Alice Hoagland is the mother of Mark Bingham, rest in peace, who was killed on 9/11. She is represented in this case, but I wonder if she is aware of the controversy surrounding the call (here and here) she recieved from her son on that fateful day.
“The simple fact is we put into Judge Daniels’s hands our most important and urgent life issue,” said a plaintiff, Alice Hoagland of Los Gatos, Calif., whose son, Mark Bingham, was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 who fought back against the hijackers before the plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
Ms. Hoagland, 60, has submitted an affidavit concerning the delays. She said by telephone she feared that if Judge Daniels was not replaced with “someone else who will work faster, I won’t live to see any satisfactory outcome to this case at all.”
Unfortunately some were given a “get out of jail free” card:
A complicating factor in the terrorism-financing litigation is that the original judge dismissed certain defendants, including Saudi Arabia and several Saudi princes, as immune from suit. In 2008, the Second Circuit upheld those dismissals, and in June 2009, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, leaving the Second Circuit ruling in place.
There is more below and of course more at the original source:
Judge Daniels did not personally respond to a request for comment on the lawyers’ petition, but his chambers provided a three-page history of the litigation, which suggests that the Second Circuit’s opinion and other factors contributed to the delays.
The history says that Judge Daniels gave the parties an opportunity to file additional briefs addressing the Second Circuit ruling, and that one brief was filed as recently as May 10. The parties also recently submitted letters on how a recent Supreme Court decision could affect pending motions.
A court transcript also quotes Judge Daniels as saying at an April 15 hearing that a ruling would be coming “within weeks.”
Michael K. Kellogg, a lawyer for the defendants, said any delays had “largely been occasioned by plaintiffs asking Judge Daniels to hold off on ruling while one or more developments played out in the courts of appeals or the Supreme Court.”
Robert T. Haefele, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers who filed the petition, said the appeals did not preclude the judge from ruling on the motions before him. “Both sides have encouraged the court to resolve the motions,” Mr. Haefele said, “and the court expressed its intention to do so.”