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U.S. ATTORNEY LACKED AUTHORITY, FAILED TO FOLLOW LAW IN FILING EVERGLADES LAWSUIT, SUGAR FARMERS SAY

 U.S. ATTORNEY LACKED AUTHORITY, FAILED TO FOLLOW LAW
 IN FILING EVERGLADES LAWSUIT, SUGAR FARMERS SAY
 MIAMI, Feb. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The Federal Government refuses to acknowledge that former U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen lacked a client and failed to follow the law when he filed the three-year-old Everglades lawsuit, according to the Florida Sugar Cane League.
 This failure could jeopardize the future of the Everglades Settlement Agreement, according to the League, and cause the lawsuit to be dismissed.
 "We have waited for more than a year and made repeated requests to the federal government to show the public that Mr. Lehtinen in fact had received proper authorization to initiate the lawsuit," said William Earl, attorney for the League. "We have now received a 29-page diatribe from them in which they simply thumb their noses at our request and have, in effect, told us they don't need to show us their authority."
 According to Earl, all lawyers must have a client who gives them authorization to file civil lawsuits. Lawyers, including the U.S. Attorney, cannot simply initiate the action on their own. "We can find no case anywhere in the United States in which another U.S. Attorney initiated an action under similar circumstances," Earl said.
 The Florida Sugar Cane League, which represents more than 80 percent of Florida's sugar farmers, filed a request in Federal District Court last December asking the government to make public the authority under which the acting U.S. Attorney filed the Everglades lawsuit against the State of Florida. Federal administrative rules require that the department which has jurisdiction, in this case the Department of the Interior, hold hearings to determine if harm was caused to the Everglades which would warrant a civil lawsuit. If the hearing determined a problem existed, then a formal request would have to be made to the Department of Justice. From there, the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami would file the suit.
 The Florida Sugar Cane League says no hearings were conducted and it can find no record of the authority required for the U.S. Attorney to file the lawsuit. It was suggested that acting U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen acted on his own, without proper authority.
 Twice the Government delayed answering the League's request for information and last week filed a 29-page document outlining why it would not answer the request.
 "The U.S. Attorney's office takes up 29 pages making allegations and innuendos, and figuratively pounding its fists on the table, but doesn't offer a single shred of written evidence to show it had authority to file the case," Earl said.
 "Instead, it asks Judge William Hoeveler to interpret quotes from editorials, press releases and news clippings as 'statements of support by federal agency officials,' and an 'ineluctable inference' that then-acting U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen had received approval from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, the Interior and Agriculture Departments, and the EPA to pursue the Everglades matter on their behalf."
 The Florida Sugar Cane League said the U.S. Attorney's office has refused to allow it to question officials of these agencies as to their roles in the Everglades case and as to whether they agree with the lawsuit allegations that their resource protection contracts with state agencies have been breached.
 "Mr. Lehtinen's actions are unprecedented," Earl said. "No other case has been found in which a U.S. Attorney has filed such a lawsuit on another federal agency's contract or matters Congress has delegated to other federal agencies without that agency's knowledge or request," Earl said. "This is what Mr. Lehtinen did in this case. The U.S. Attorney's response to our motion clearly indicates there was no authorization."
 "The office of the U.S. Attorney is resorting to hostile and inflammatory tactics to divert attention from the weakness of its legal position in pressing its concept of an Everglades restoration program through a lawsuit rather than following appropriate administrative procedures, resulting in public hearings under state and federal law," Earl said.
 -0- 2/10/92
 /CONTACT: Otis Wragg or Ray Casas of Wragg & Casas Public Relations, 305-372-1234, for the Florida Sugar Cane League; or William L. Earl, counsel for the Sugar Cane League, 305-358-3000/ CO: Florida Sugar Cane League ST: Florida IN: SU:


AW-SS -- FL006 -- 8273 02/10/92 12:23 EST
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Date:Feb 10, 1992
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