Judge DAPL, aka Judge Boasberg, sits on pipeline case as oil begins to flow
A September 2016 protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the North Dakota Capitol. | AP

June 1, 2017 should be viewed as a day of infamy. On that date oil began flowing in earnest in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The judge in the litigation surrounding the pipeline, Judge Boasberg, aka Judge DAPL, that boot polishing lickspittle, that servile minion, that tendentious toady of the energy companies sits on the case doing absolutely nothing. There has been on his desk since February 14, a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe against both the Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access LLC, the subsidiary of the parent pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). If granted by Judge Boasberg it would halt the flow of oil in the pipeline.

But, the Motion has been sitting now for virtually four months with no action taken and no end in sight. Four months! This is an outrage with the clearly ideologically compromised Boasberg engaging in judicial procrastination. So far, all of the judge’s rulings have been flagrantly  in  favor of DAPL, without exception. His stalling and shockingly dilatory conduct have time and again given DAPL the upper hand. Boasberg cowers in ideological collusion with the corporate power that is so brazenly exhibited by the fossil fuel energy companies.

In the past few weeks there have been three separate leaks in the tentative pipeline occurring before it was fully operational. One would think this would have awakened the bumbling Boasberg from his malaise to take some action and fulfill his judicial duties, but, as with Rip Van Winkle, nothing has roused him from his apparent stupor. He is sending a message by his inactivity that is a go-ahead to the rapacious, racist DAPL. He should have been the subject of a motion to recuse, to remove him from this case early on as he is incapable of rendering a just decision or — at this point it seems — of rendering any decision at all.

This latest litigation, the Motion for Summary Judgment, filed by EarthJustice, the environmental law firm, against ETP is based upon three legal claims. First, federal law requires a full, transparent and public environmental review, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), for any federal action that has significant environmental impacts. These were not done. Second, the Trump coterie violated the treaty rights of the tribes that prohibit the federal government and its agencies, under federal Indian law, from taking any action that poses harm to  water sources that are used by Indians on any given reservation. Third, the decision that requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) cannot be reversed absent fully explained reasoning. There was no reasoned explanation given for the suspension of the EIS.

History shall render its unflattering verdict on Judge Boasberg; at this glacial rate, history is likely to do so before the judge issues his verdict on DAPL.


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.