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Judge begins expediting CalEnergy lawsuit

February 23, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Imperial County Superior Court Judge Donal Donnelly took the first step this morning toward expediting a $45 million lawsuit filed by CalEnergy against Southern California Edison.

During a brief hearing in the County Courthouse in El Centro, Donnelly ruled attorneys for CalEnergy could present their motion for a summary judgment Wednesday.

That would be one week after the geothermal company filed its lawsuit against Edison.

Attorneys for both CalEnergy and Edison said allowing for a summary judgment motion to be filed one week after the filing of a lawsuit is unusual.

Normally it can take up to three months from the time a lawsuit is filed until a summary motion is filed, they said.

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"We are very pleased by the ruling," said attorney John Shiner of Los Angeles, who is representing CalEnergy.

Shiner added, "It reflects that the judge is aware of the magnitude of the amount of money involved and the impact it has on the community."

The motion that will be presented Wednesday will ask that the judge rule on the merits of the case rather than having a jury decide the matter.

As per court procedure, Donnelly would receive CalEnergy's motion for a summary judgment, but would not act on it Wednesday.

Instead, he will set a date upon which he will decide whether to grant the summary judgment motion.

Should Donnelly grant that motion, he would have to consider expediting the case further by setting dates for hearings during which attorneys would argue the case before a judge.

Shiner said his clients are asking the court handle the case within weeks rather than months.

"Our clients are losing $1 million a day," Shiner told Donnelly.

Shiner added, "It is a matter that demands expedition."

El Centro-based attorney Steven Walker was hired by Edison as local counsel for this morning's hearing.

Walker argued it was premature to expedite the case, stating CalEnergy has not prepared its summary judgment motion.

He said that motion should be drafted before the judge acts to expedite hearing the motion.

He also said Edison has not had a chance to prepare an answer to CalEnergy's lawsuit.

Following the hearing, Walker said he is not prepared to present Edison's arguments against CalEnergy.

CalEnergy's lawsuit asks the court to force Edison to pay $45 million in back payments owed to CalEnergy for November and December.

The case also asks that the court allow CalEnergy to break from its contract with Edison so it can sell power elsewhere in the state.

CalEnergy has 10 geothermal plants in the Imperial Valley, eight of which supply power to Edison.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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