Scorched Worth : A True Story of Destruction, Deceit, and Government Corruption
Overview - The problems with America's criminal-justice system have been covered extensively in newspapers, magazines, and books. But little, if anything, has been written or said about a uniquely odious form of sanctioned corruption: government agencies maliciously suing individuals and companies. Read more...
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More About Scorched Worth by Joel Engel
The problems with America's criminal-justice system have been covered extensively in newspapers, magazines, and books. But little, if anything, has been written or said about a uniquely odious form of sanctioned corruption: government agencies maliciously suing individuals and companies. The motive is usually cost recovery. For the prosecuting lawyers, lawsuits that bring in money to the treasury (some of which gets kicked back to the prosecuting department) are a fast track to promotion and prestige. But the motive may also be personal--jealousy, envy, even a lawyer's warped sense of social justice. More often than we suspect, these suits are perversions of justice. With unlimited budgets and the awesome power of the state behind them, government lawyers are unconstrained by either statute or case law that would compel them under penalty of sanctions or disbarment to drop unjust suits. True, there are established ethical standards to which they've sworn adherence, but in the real world the lawyers' own consciences are all that guide them. Not surprisingly, given their rank atop the hierarchy of law enforcement, the most egregious offenders are in the United States Department of Justice. Which brings us to our book, tentatively titled Scorched Worth: How a Forest Fire Corrupted the Department of Justice. In 2007, a forest fire broke out on Moonlight Peak in the Plumas National Forest of California's eastern Sierra Nevada, burning about 65,000 acres. An investigator from the California Department of Forestry (Cal Fire) and one from the United States Forest Service (USFS) conducted a perfunctory investigation and filed a report that blamed Sierra Pacific Industries, a successful forest-service products company, for the fire. The report claimed that SPI's independent logging contractor had started the conflagration by driving a bulldozer over a rock, creating a spark that flew into a pile of brush. SPI wouldn't know anything about this for two years, until the U.S. Department of Justice and California's attorney general filed separate but nearly identical suits against SPI. The amount being sought by the U.S. alone was nearly a billion dollars, though the value of the land, had it been disappeared off the earth instead of already undergoing a renaissance, was only about $20 million. In short, this was a civil death-penalty case, so of course the company fought hard with a team of smart, aggressive lawyers. Week by week, month by month, year by year, SPI's lawyers discovered that the investigators on whose findings the suit was based had falsified evidence to support their predetermination that SPI had been negligent. They had looked only for what they wanted to find and ignored an enormous body of evidence pointing toward, among other things, a young addict with psych issues who very well may have intentionally or accidentally started the fire. While the Assistant United States Attorney and the California Deputy Attorney General could not have known at the beginning that the investigation on which they'd based their suits was fictitious or fabricated, they refused to drop the suit as the discovery process continued and dozens of revelatory findings made clear how dishonest and malicious the investigation had been. The book is a riveting narrative that begins with the fire, takes us through the flawed investigation (complete with Keystone Kops errors), and then into the most startling evidence and (deposition) testimony that, piece by piece, unraveled the government's case. By the time the reader gets to the federal judge's decision that forced SPI to deal, s/he will be shouting about injustice.
- ISBN-13: 9781594039812
- ISBN-10: 159403981X
- Publisher: Encounter Books
- Publish Date: March 2018
- Page Count: 296
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds