The lawsuit CLF has filed against the Authority related to the alleged non-compliance of its Industrial Pretreatment Program and Enforcement Response Plan has been assigned to Judge Angel Kelley. The MWRA has filed a motion requesting to reassign this case to Judge Stearns, who has overseen the Boston Harbor Action − the two court cases and resulting actions taken by the federal court − since September 2004. The MWRA argues that the current CLF lawsuit is “related” under a federal procedural rule, which would allow for reassignment to Judge Stearns. CLF has registered its objection to this motion, claiming that their lawsuit is not “related” and should remain assigned to Judge Kelley.
Having presided over the Boston Harbor Action for nearly twenty years, Judge Stearns has a deep understanding and intimate knowledge of the MWRA’s NPDES permit and Clean Water Act compliance as well as the complexity of the MWRA’s sewer system and the impacts on Massachusetts Bay from the Deer Island Treatment Plant. Reassigning the case to him would help promote judicial economy and efficiency, which the procedural rule allows. Moreover, subsequent judicial rulings have noted that reassigning “related” cases to judges already familiar with the subject matter helps to avoid piecemeal litigation and reduces the possibility of inconsistent decisions.
The Advisory Board has always found Judge Stearns to be a highly engaged, firm, but fair steward of the Boston Harbor Action and supports MWRA’s motion for reassignment. Having a judge that is thoroughly versed in the MWRA’s complex wastewater system can only help ensure that the MWRA is meeting its obligations to the Commonwealth and the ratepayers.