Attorneys in Gloucester and New Bedford are engaged in separate struggles with NOAA and the Coast Guard administrative law judge system to obtain more than a half million dollars combined in legal fees for two clients.
The clients — the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction and former New Bedford-based scalloper Larry Yacubian, now out of the fishing business, were harmed badly enough by law enforcement excesses to warrant reparations and elicit a Cabinet-level apology.
Muniz noted that, in his secretarial order of May 17 — when the apology and reparations were announced and the order to drop the Coast Guard ALJ system was issued — then-Commerce Secretary Locke wrote that "the opportunity to reopen cases is rarely available and is reserved for serious miscarriages of justice."
"Two of the cases that the secretary ultimately 'reopened' due to 'serious miscarriages of justice' were the adversary proceedings involving the Gloucester Fishing Exchange Inc., (the corporate title of the auction)," he wrote.
He also referred to parts of Locke's order that directed NOAA to cancel the $85,000 settlement and return $16,515, as more evidence that the case was not settled until May 17, 2011 — more than a year after the auction and NOAA agreed to resolve all three cases, which a special judicial master had found had produced no meaningful evidence of any violations.
Muniz said the auction was seeking "hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees."