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An appeals court said Wednesday that federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago. The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.

The ruling arises from one of several lawsuits filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmentalists seeking to protect the Delta smelt. The ruling won't affect water flows because protections for the smelt were kept in place during the lawsuit.

"This about how we are going to manage the water in the future," said Douglas Obegi, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Water-rights holders and government lawyers argued that consultation wasn't necessary because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was required to renew the contracts and had no discretion over terms of the agreement that would control water levels in the Delta.

GM to ask bankruptcy court for lawsuit protection

•  National News     updated  2014/04/17 14:42


General Motors revealed in court filings late Tuesday that it will soon ask a federal bankruptcy judge to shield the company from legal claims for conduct that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy.

The automaker's strategy is in a motion filed in a Corpus Christi, Texas, federal court case, and in other cases across the nation that involve the defective ignition switches that have led GM to recall 2.6 million small cars.

The motion asks U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to delay action on the lawsuit until the bankruptcy court rules and other federal courts decide if the case should be combined with other lawsuits. But GM says it's not asking to halt action on a motion to force GM to tell customers not to drive their cars that are being recalled.

GM has said at least 13 deaths have been linked to the switch problem. The switch can unexpectedly slip out of the "run" position, shutting down the engine, knocking out power-assisted steering and power brakes, and disabling the air bags. GM admits knowing about the problem for at least a decade, but it didn't start recalling the cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, until February.

The company's motion says GM will ask the bankruptcy court in New York to enforce an order made during the 2009 bankruptcy case that split GM into a new company and an old company. Claims from before the bankruptcy would go to "Old GM," called Motors Liquidation Co., while claims after the bankruptcy would go to the new General Motors Co.



A court appearance was postponed Monday in Nevada for a University of California, Berkeley, law school graduate completing prison boot camp for beheading an exotic bird during a drunken chase at a Las Vegas Strip resort.

Prosecutor Frank Coumou says Justin Alexander Teixeira's court date was rescheduled to May 5.

Teixeira is facing three to five years' probation before he can ask to have his felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.

Whether Teixeira is admitted to practice law in California could on depend on whether a felony remains on his record.

He pleaded guilty last May to killing another person's animal in the October 2012 death of a helmeted guineafowl at the Flamingo hotel-casino.

Two other Berkeley students entered pleas to reduced misdemeanor charges, paid fines and served community service.



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