Bench Memos

Internal Government Document Shows “Moonlight Fire” Investigators Deliberately Covered Up A Stoned Fire Lookout

When a government’s desire for revenue exceeds its desire to obey the law, the truth goes right out the window. Newly-unredacted court filings confirm that the U.S. Forest Service clearly engaged in a cover-up of employee wrongdoing simply because it wanted to win a case against a deep-pocketed logging company.

Deposition testimony had previously indicated that one of Cal Fire’s lookouts—the people who are supposed to catch small fires before they become big fires– was high on marijuana at the time the Moonlight Fire started. Another employee had caught the lookout with drug paraphernalia and smelling like marijuana, and by the time she left the lookout’s station, the fire’s smoke plume was quite large.

A newly unredacted court filing quotes from an internal U.S. Forest Service document from the lookout’s supervisor indicating that the Forest Service brass hushed it all up (brackets in original):

I knew this was a real serious matter. This is our main lookout in the Moonlight Valley. I could just see all sorts of legal problems. The attorneys would say the main lookout is stoned and let a fire go…. In [Lief’s] performance [evaluation], I wanted to give him a no-re-hire and an unsatisfactory performance rating…And Dave Loomis [sic] reply [was] to give him a satisfactory performance rating.

In short, defense attorneys have a smoking gun document confirming that the U.S. Forest Service re-hired the pot-smoking fire lookout who missed the fire for an additional two years just to keep him on Team Revenue. Ouch.

Jonathan KeimJonathan Keim is Counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Princeton University, an experienced litigator, and ...

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