Reactions to the SCOTUS Exxon Valdez Ruling
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:
Amy J. Wildermuth, an associate professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, originally filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries Resources in support of the respondents. She writes the first of a series of Discussion Board posts on today’s Exxon v. Baker decision for the SCOTUSblog:
Gov. Sarah Palin said she is extremely disappointed with the decision, saying the court "gutted the jury's decision on punitive damages" and undercut one of the principal deterrents for marine shipping accidents in Alaska.
"It is tragic that so many Alaska fishermen and their families have had their lives put on hold waiting for this decision," Palin said. "My heart goes out to those affected, especially the families of the thousands of Alaskans who passed away while waiting for justice."
Palin's Fish and Game commissioner, Denby Lloyd, said the harmful effects of the spill are still being felt in Prince William Sound.
It is easy to predict that other courts, after this signal from the Supreme Court, may soon follow suit. One wonders, however, whether this move to clean up a perceived mess, this need to draw clear lines, is not misplaced where these cases each tell their own unique and individual story. These unique stories are no better illustrated than by this particular case, a devastating oil spill in one of our most sensitive ecological enclaves that remains to this day part of our collective national memory. The Court may eventually regret that it has sacrificed the albeit messier approach of evaluating each case on its own terms using good sound judgment for the sake of a round number.
Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Candidate for U.S. Senate:
“The thousands of Alaskans whose lives were devastated by this disaster are hurt, once again, by this ruling,” Begich said. “What we’re seeing today is another example of how Washington is out of touch with real people. The justices have sided with corporate America rather than with Alaska families who have suffered for nearly 20 years.”
Begich added that while the livelihoods of thousands of Alaska fishermen and others were destroyed by the spill, Sen. Ted Stevens has continued to work to serve the interests of big business, rather than put pressure on Exxon to settle the lawsuit or drop its appeals.
“Sen. Stevens continues to show he works hard for special interests, but where has he been when it comes to doing what’s right for Alaskans?” Begich said.
The Daily Kos:
Apparently, an amount of money equal to what Exxon Mobil rakes in every 2.5 days was too high. Instead, the penalty is limited to what the company makes in a typical afternoon.
Yeah, that'll be enough to make them change their ways.
Justice Stevens, in his dissent (per Mother Jones Blog):
...Justice Stevens suggested that the court had gone too far in reducing punitive damages in the case and in maritime lawsuits in general and was legislating from the bench. He said the justices ought to respect the decisions of the lower courts, particularly the Alaska jury, whose decision was reviewed no fewer than four times by the District Court and upheld three times. After all, he writes, "In light of Exxon’s decision to permit a lapsed alcoholic to command a supertanker carrying tens of millions of gallons of crude oil through the treacherous waters of Prince William Sound, thereby endangering all of the individuals who depended upon the sound for their livelihoods, the jury could reasonably have given expression to its “moral condemnation” of Exxon’s conduct in the form of this award."
Riki Ott...Cordova fisherman, scientist and environmental activist:
"We were really counting on punitive damages paying for our long-term losses in the fishery. That's obviously not going to happen," Ott said. "Well, that's an affront to everyone's sense of justice."