Thursday July 14, 2016
The City of South Burlington filed paperwork in Federal Court on June 28, seeking to participate as amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in the Zbitnoff et al v. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James — F35 National Environmental Policy Act litigation, which began in 2014. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, six private citizens and the Stop the F35 Coalition, were joined last year by the City of Winooski, who joined as a plaintiff on only one count: noise. The Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation is also participating with amicus curiae status.
The city council’s decision to request approval from the court to enter into the case was made at a special meeting held June 22, with councilor’s voting 3-2 in support of the resolution to seek information from the Air Force on noise and safety concerns. Joining as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, is different than joining as a plaintiff, and is granted at the discretion of the judge. An amicus is not a party to the suit but can file responsive briefs to arguments already raised, and is eligible to join an appeal.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit question the federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), saying that noise, health and safety issues were not adequately addressed as the beddown of the F35 was considered. They are pressing for a new EIS.
In a memorandum, filed simultaneously with the request for amicus status, the city proclaimed limited support of the plaintiff’s motions for summary judgment stating that the September 2013 EIS did not provide adequate information as to noise impacts on the city, or mitigation thereof, and did not provide adequate information as to potential health and safety impacts which could result from noise or an F35 crash within or near the city.
U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford approved the motion for the city to participate as amicus curiae on June 29, just days before the court date.
Judge Crawford heard testimony from both sides on Tuesday, July 5. A decision is not expected for several weeks.