Judge Orrick denies Motion by Klamath Tribes, Orders Venue Moved to Oregon


Judge William H. Orrick denies a motion filed by the Klamath Tribes for preliminary injunction to protect sucker fish of Upper Klamath Lake. Orrick also orders a transfer of venue to a Federal Court in Oregon. At this time, it is unclear which Oregon Federal Court will receive the case. 

In the ruling [right], Judge Orrick states:

"While venue may be proper in the Northern District of California, it is more appropriate in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon: the Klamath Tribes are headquartered there, the sucker fish are there, the Upper Klamath Lake is there, and the Bureau and FWS have offices there. Only NMFS has an office in the Northern District, and it may not be long for this case given problems with Count III. I will let the transferee court address the pleadings as it will.

There is reason for all parties to give urgent focus to the health of the sucker fish. The federal defendants represent that this is already happening, and I encourage the engaged scientists for all parties to work collaboratively and expeditiously to protect the sucker fish. The Klamath Irrigation Project is complex, and the endangered species within it are of paramount importance under the Endangered Species Act. That said, while this is a close case, the Klamath Tribes have not convinced me on this record that they are likely to prevail on the merits or that the sucker fish will suffer irreparable harm if I do not grant the relief the Klamath Tribes seek. There is substantial disagreement whether the lake elevation level is causing injury to the sucker fish, but there is no doubt that granting a mandatory injunction that cuts off water to the Klamath Irrigation District will cause substantial harm to others that depend on it, including wildlife refuges, farmers and ranchers. The motion for preliminary injunction is DENIED."

In the conclusion of the ruling,Judge Orrick continues: 

"The federal defendants’ and intervenors’ motions to dismiss for improper venue are DENIED, but their motions to transfer venue are GRANTED. The District Court for the District of Oregon is the appropriate venue for this matter. The Klamath Tribes’ motion for preliminary injunction is DENIED.

The Clerk shall transfer the file the United States District Court for the District of Oregon. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: July 25, 2018"

Watch courtroom video from the hearing here.