Lawyer Who Fought Fake Snow Dodges Sanctions

     (CN) – An environmental lawyer will not have to pick up the tab for an unsuccessful lawsuit to keep fake snow off mountains in Arizona, the 9th Circuit ruled.
     The decision this week represents a departure from the stance that the federal appeals court took in June, when it referred Howard Shanker to the appellate commission.
     In its now-revoked order for sanctions, the panel accused Shanker of harassing a Flagstaff ski resort to increase expenses and delay the snowmaking he opposed. Shanker denied the charges and said there was no evidence to support them.
     Though the court had found that Shanker “grossly abused the judicial process,” it withdrew the order this week without comment.
     Judge J. Clifford Wallace dissented, arguing that Shanker deserved the sanctions for allegedly holding back claims from his first lawsuit to pursue them in a second attempt.
     Shanker told Courthouse News on Friday that the latest decision is a relief.
     “This whole process has, however, been a bit disconcerting,” Shanker said in an interview. “There also still remains a published decision from the panel that states, without any legitimate basis, that I ‘grossly abused the judicial process.’ At the moment, I am pretty cynical regarding the ability of our judicial system to do justice – I guess it could have been worse, at least I wasn’t convicted of a crime I never committed.”
     Shanker represented members of the Navajo Nation in a 2005 challenge to Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort’s plan to cover the San Francisco Peaks with artificial snow made from reclaimed water. Members of Arizona’s Navajo and Hopi tribes consider the peaks sacred, and they claimed that the plan violated their religious rights.
     After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against them in 2009, Shanker and the Save the Peaks Coalition brought a second challenge that also failed. That case claimed that the plan violated federal environmental laws.

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