September 7, 2010

Mass. man uses student loan money to file bogus Endangered Species Act lawsuit

By Mass. man uses student loan money to file bogus Endangered Species Act lawsuit

Author: Brandon Middleton

Two months ago, I blogged about Strahan v. Holmes, the First Circuit case in which Richard Max Strahan is seeking to prevent Daniel Holmes from pursuing his livelihood as a commercial lobster fisherman.  This story began in 2006, when Holmes' fishing gear (which was known to be "whale safe" and complied with state and federal regulations) accidentally became entangled with an endangered humpback whale.

The whale was quickly disentangled and was able to swim away unharmed–but although no harm was done and despite the accidental nature of the incident, Strahan felt that the right thing to do was to have Holmes never hunt for lobster again.  So Strahan sued Holmes under the Endangered Species Act.

The case now sits in the First Circuit, and there are many reasons to be upset about the fact that Daniel Holmes' ability to pursue his livelihood remains uncertain.  Of course, there is Strahan's dubious position that the federal courts should be used to deprive Holmes of his job despite the unlikelihood that Holmes' lobster fishing will harm endangered whales.  As the district court correctly recognized in this case,"[t]he hardship that would be imposed upon Holmes by an injunction, i.e. being prevented from pursuing his livelihood, far outweighs the relatively remote possibility of harm resulting from any future entanglements of whales in his fishing gear."

But perhaps the most outrageous aspect of this story is how Strahan is funding his pro se lawsuit.

Last week, in yet another attempt to delay resolution of this case in favor of Daniel Holmes, Strahan requested an extension to comply with First Circuit rules for the filing of appellate briefs.  Strahan, who describes himself as a "full time degree seeking student at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst," gave the following reasons for why his extension request should be granted:

I am not a lawyer.  I have to work for a living doing something else besides these legal matters. I am simply way over my head on this legal stuff. . . .Certainly the Public Interest demands that the First Circuit takes this appeal seriously and gives the impoverished good Samaritan Appellant — who is paying for this appeal out of his student aid from UMass — a full chance to make the best possible case to the court.

Admittedly, I am not intimately familiar with rules and regulations pertaining to educational loans, nor do I know the specific circumstances behind Strahan's financial aid–e.g., whether the aid is public or private, state or federal, etc.  But it is absurd to me at least that money intended for educational purposes is being used to prevent an entrepreneur from earning a living.  And how ironic is it that, in a case where Strahan seeks to deprive Holmes' of his ability to earn a living, Strahan requests an extension by citing his own ability to earn a living?

Daniel Holmes should never have been hauled into federal court for this minor and unintentional incident.  Unfortunately, he has been subjected over the past few years to needless environmental litigation through Richard Max Strahan's (shall we say, creative) use of student loan money.

In case you're wondering, the First Circuit has been extremely gracious to Strahan and has granted him numerous extension requests, including the latest one described above.  But in an order late last week, the First Circuit stated that if Strahan fails to comply with the local rules by September 10, his appeal "will be dismissed for lack of diligent prosecution."

For the benefit of Daniel Holmes and common sense, here's hoping the First Circuit holds Strahan to account.

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