Legislation - Policy

Judge Blocks Red Hill Families’ Effort To Question Navy Admiral Under Oath

Legal precedent sets a high bar for deposing ‘high-level’ government officials.

Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, will not have to answer to attorneys representing families impacted by the Red Hill contamination crisis. (U.S. Navy/2022)

The four-star admiral who commanded the U.S. Pacific Fleet when Navy fuel contaminated Oahu’s drinking water in 2021 won’t have to answer questions under oath about it, a federal magistrate judge ruled Thursday.

Families who were sickened by the tainted water are suing the Navy and had hoped to depose Navy Adm. Samuel Paparo. Their attorneys argued that he was a key player in failing to warn residents that the water was unsafe  following two catastrophic leaks at the Red Hill fuel facility.

The Department of Justice opposed the request, saying that Paparo is so high-ranking that only “extraordinary circumstances” would warrant deposing him. Just this month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin nominated Paparo to be the next chief of naval operations. His nomination is subject to approval by President Joe Biden.

In a written ruling, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield sided with the government.

Mansfield pointed to court precedent from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that centered on whether former U.S. Department of Education secretary Betsy DeVos could be deposed. That decision let DeVos off the hook from giving sworn testimony.

The appeals court said three elements are required to depose a high-ranking government official: a showing of […]

Full article: www.civilbeat.org

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