Mayor Autry, Judge Wanger Debate

October 15, 2008 11:19:19 PM PDT
Here in Fresno, Mayor Alan Autry squared off with the federal judge who almost held him in contempt of court back in June. A much different scene ... Instead of a courtroom the two debated during a public forum.Fresno Mayor Alan Autry and Judge Oliver Wanger shook hands before their showdown at high noon.

U.S. District Court Judge Hon. Oliver Wanger said, "When a judge doesn't follow the Constitution, when a judge uses the Declaration of Independence what's the judge doing? The judge is now an activist."

In June Mayor Autry was called to federal court. Judge Wanger took offense after Autry said the court and attorneys were exploiting the homeless.

Fresno Mayor Alan Autry said, "The first words I heard in the press was the city of Fresno conducted itself in a dishonest and demeaning way to the homeless. Now those are pretty serious accusations judge."

Hon. Oliver Wanger said, "The way the homeless were treated in the street by the people who were seizing and destroying their property in front of them was demeaning."

The homeless won a one-and-a-half million dollar settlement after the city bulldozed homeless encampments and tossed out personal belongings. Autry took issue with what he felt were extremely high fees charged by ACLU attorneys.

Hon. Oliver Wanger said, "The attorney's fees were fixed by the parties in their settlement agreement that they signed. The court had no role in it."

Autry said, "But don't think that I signed something and then sent it off to judge and then started barking like some schizophrenic or something. I know what I did and I was hoping the judge would underline that word reasonable."

Autry was also critical of Judge Wanger's decision to reduce the amount of water pumped from the delta to protect the delta smelt. The cutback has severely impacted many farms on the west-side.

Autry said, "The Endangered Species Act is unconstitutional openly. You cannot do anything to protect a fish if human beings are injured, hurt and their rights violated."

Hon. Oliver Wanger said, "The Supreme Court has said under ESA cases, economic impact cannot be considered. That's the end of the road. And so its not for the judge to think, its not for the judge to make the law or change the law and be irresponsible."

The debate was hosted by the Fresno County Bar Association.

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