Court denies amicus brief in trout lawsuit

ALAMOSA — The Colorado District Court has denied the 10-county coalition's amicus curiae brief filing, which was filed earlier in the year to aid litigation on the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

Michael O'Loughlin, county attorney for Hinsdale County and legal representative for the coalition, informed the coalition members about the status of the brief in an email on Wednesday.

The coalition was formed to manage endangered species issues that affect southern Colorado. It includes Alamosa, Rio Grande, Saguache, Costilla, Conejos, and Mineral counties along with Las Animas, Hinsdale, Archuleta and San Juan counties.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization focused on conservation, filed a lawsuit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) last July for removing the Rio Grande cutthroat trout from the endangered species list. The center argues that fish is still endangered while the government says that local conservation efforts have helped enough that it is no longer endangered.

Since the filing Colorado Parks and Wildlife and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish have been added as co-defendants.

O'Loughlin explained in the email that the motion was denied because the court sees the amicus brief as unnecessary.

"By law such a decision is at the discretion of the court, so we must live with it," O'Loughlin said.

"Although the Coalition is understandably focused on this case’s outcome," writes Chief United States District Judge Marcia Krieger in the order, "the Court is not—it is focused on the process by which the FWS made its decision. As to the process by which the decision was made, the Coalition has offered nothing that is not apparent in the record, or which cannot be addressed by the parties to the action."

Budd-Falen Law Offices LLC, the law firm hired to file the brief, has billed the coalition $4,403.48. O'Loughlin is hoping that the fee can be discounted since it was unsuccessful. According to O'Loughlin the coalition has paid the firm $2,468.28 and $1,935.20 remains outstanding.

O'Loughlin said in the email that the parties are still waiting on the status of evidence to be used in the case and briefings have yet to be scheduled.