In New Orleans, a federal judge has ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers is liable for some of the worst flooding in the city after Hurricane Katrina struck the region in 2005. The decision could ultimately put the government on the hook to pay billions of dollars in damages to homeowners. The judge ruled that poor management of the city's levee system contributed to the destruction of thousands of homes in a major navigation channel in New Orleans.
Many said the ruling brought vindication to the residents of New Orleans, who for nearly five years argued that the destruction in the aftermath of the storm was not merely an act of God but also the result of federal negligence. New Orleans residents may not see any money, however, as the government is expected to appeal. Commentators are applauding the ruling for bringing at least a sense of justice to the struggling city.
- Now, It's Official At the Huffington Post, Harry Shearer says the city's residents may find a sense of closure in an official affirmation of what they already know to be true. "Okay, now it's official, or as official, at least, as the considered ruling of a Federal district judge can make it," he writes. "The United States Army Corps of Engineers has been found by Judge Stanwood Duval liable for the damages inflicted on at least three plaintiffs by its failure to mitigate the damage its construction and operation of the MR-GO channel caused to the wetlands and, ultimately to the Lower Ninth Ward and St. Bernard Parish on August 29, 2005." But Shearer laments that the Obama administration looks likely to appeal the ruling, and is sending "unhopeful signs of non-change."
- We Told You So Kevin at Wizbang says they knew all along the Army Corps of Engineers was to blame. "Wizbang, specifically former editor Paul, was the first to present a detailed case as to the Corp's responsibility for the devastation starting just days after the event. You can read the two summation posts (here and here) or browse the Katrina archive. As Paul noted when the damning evidence was first released, the fact that the blame has been assigned (and now adjudicated) is small comfort."
- Thousands Will Sue the Government NPR's Kathy Lohr reports from New Orleans. "The real impact of this ruling," she says, "is that it opens the doors for tens of thousands of people to sue. And that's probably what will happen."
- Problems For Obama Richard Fausset of The Los Angeles Times says the ruling could create a political quagmire for President Obama, who has pledged to do more than his predecessor to help the region rebuild, but has fewer resources at his disposal to do so. "The federal government has promised tens of billions of dollars in post-storm rebuilding aid to Louisiana," Fausset writes. And now, he says Obama will have to commit much more. "The Justice Department has estimated that the total outstanding civil claims could amount to billions more."
- The Right Thing to Do Dusty at The Sirens Chronicles blog says that while the decision will likely be overruled, the ruling is justice in itself. "Three cheers for this judge. The ruling might not stand but he did the right thing anyway regardless of how the higher federal courts rule."
- A Little Justice The Daily Dose blog says the victory is symbolic, but meaningful nevertheless. "While this is far from justice served for the thousands whose lives were forever changed by a disaster that could have been averted, this judgment hopefully will hold those whom we thought could never be sued to account. While it's a small victory, it is a victory nonetheless. This is a good day."
- What About the Local Government's Failures? At the conservative Minority Report, David Hinz says the federal government isn't the only one to blame for the destruction. The corruption of local politicians also played a role, he argues. "What the judge failed to consider in his ruling, and what can be confirmed through articles in the Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans dating back to the 1990's is that the federal government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the New Orleans levees, most of which disappeared into the pockets of local politicians and beautification projects, while the levees remained in disrepair."