Colorado Springs and the four parties suing the city over federal stormwater permit violations are more deeply entrenched in a waiting game after the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit died Monday.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch, 88, was known for his no-nonsense attitude in the courtroom and for overseeing the 1996 trials and convictions of Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
Matsch ruled late last year that Colorado Springs violated federal stormwater regulations at three development sites, leaving the city liable for what some councilmen have said could be hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties.
Other allegations against the city have yet to be argued in court.
City officials have been pushing to settle the case. In December, the plaintiffs — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District — filed a request to temporarily halt the case.
That pause was meant to allow settlement negotiations to continue. In March, Matsch’s order halting the case was extended.
With Matsch’s passing, the case will need to be reassigned to another judge.
Such situations aren’t unprecedented, said Deputy City Attorney Tom Florczak. Protocols exist within the court system to reassign cases left open by a judge’s absence. Similar circumstances arise when judges retire, he said.
The first portion of the trial lasted nearly two weeks. The case has cost the city more than $3 million.