By Richard Gaines
The special judicial master whose initial investigation into NOAA enforcement action against the fishing industry yielded a Cabinet-level apology and reparations is believed to have completed and filed with Commerce Secretary John Bryson a second and final report.
The report is expected to document additional violations of fishermen's rights.
The initial report was submitted to Bryson's predecessor Gary Locke — now ambassador to China — on April 14, 2011, and, after extensive redacting, made public on May 17, 2011.
Bryson's communications office did not respond to telephone calls and emails Monday, but Pamela LaFreniere, a New Bedford attorney, said she believes Special Master Charles B. Swartwood III has completed his work and submitted it to Bryson.
One of Lafreniere's clients, former scallop fisherman Larry Yacubian, was given $400,000 in reparations last May, and she said Swartwood had delved into the complaints of more than an additional dozen of her clients in the still unresolved package.
In a letter updating Bryson last December, Swartwood said he was looking into 66 separate claims of justice miscarried by agents and litigators at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In that letter, Swartwood said he hoped to have his case studies, together with finds, conclusions and recommendations resolved by March 15. But about then, he also told the Times in a telephone interview that he was not close to finished.
A retired federal magistrate and chairman of the Massachusetts Ethics Commission, Swartwood did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday, and a spokeswoman for JAMS — the arbitration, mediation and judicial mastering service that employs Swartwood and has the Commerce Department contract for his services — said it had no information on the status of the second report.
Swartwood's case study of the Yacubian case brought howls for different reasons from the Coast Guard's Administrative Law Judge system that tried the case, and from NOAA critics due to redactions in it.
The judges objected to Swartwood's finding that the trial judge had ignored a federal court judge's directive and in attending an overseas conference that also included the prosecutors of the case left the impression of a possible conflict of interest. Swartwood also noted that it was a nearly universal belief that fairness could not be gotten in trials presided over by the Coast Guard judges.