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Ortega Cabrera v. Bayamon, Municipality of

Citation: 10 ELR 20463
No. Nos. 79-1494, -1516, 622 F.2d 4/14 ERC 1961/(1st Cir., 05/28/1980) contempt citation upheld

The First Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a contempt citation and civil fines against the mayor for failing to comply with a cleanup order for a municipal dump. As a result of poor planning in siting the dump, heavy rains caused water and air pollution and property damage. Nearby residents brought suit alleging a local nuisance and violation of environmental laws. Issuance of injunctive relief in plaintiffs' favor followed by intransigence on the part of defendants led to the imposition of civil fines, from which defendants appealed. The court of appeals vacates and remands the district court's dismissal of the defendant municipality on the ground that there was no prior ruling on the municipality's liability. Whether the municipality should be joined at this point is left to the lower court's discretion, however, because of the additional delay that might be caused in an already lengthy litigation. The court affirms a ruling that the mayor is not a party to the suit in his private capacity and upholds the contempt citation imposed as a sanction for his failure to take any action to rehabilitate the dump, noting particularly that the mayor did not appeal the order by the June 1979 deadline for rehabilitation of the dump. The daily civil fines will accrue until the dump is brought into compliance with the cleanup order. The district court acted within its discretion in imposing the fines and may use its discretion for further orders to remedy the apparent stalemate in the litigation.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Arturo Aponte Pares, Olaguibeet A. Lopez-Pacheco
Box 2381, Hato Rey PR 00919
(809) 753-1020

Counsel for Defendants
Jose E. Bosch-Rogue
1B9 Azalea St., Royal Palm, Bayamon PR 00620
(809) 786-9488

Elmer Toro-Lucchetti
Ponsa-Selin & Ponsa-Flores
P.O. Box 4423, San Juan PR 00936
(809) 751-7205

Before Coffin, Campbell and Wisdom,* JJ.