Yesterday a lawyer from Seattle Washington filed a motion on behalf of three victims of Carnival’s pollution seeking status under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA).  Seattle attorney Knoll Lowney argues that his three clients, all affected by Princess Cruise Line’s and its parent Carnival Corporation’s pollution, want more transparency in the case.

The victims’ motion to amend was filed just four days before the Court will consider whether to approve a proposed resolution of the U.S Government’s motion to revoke Carnival’s probation based on six new charges that Carnival violated its probation. (The Court agreed with the parties to move the hearing up several weeks). As the Miami Herald point out, the six violations are: falsifying records, communicating with the U.S. Coast Guard through a back channel, failing to give sufficient authority to the company’s environmental compliance officer,preparing its ships ahead of visits by a court-appointed monitor, and dumping plastic items into Bahamian waters. (Details about the sixth incident have not been disclosed).

The proposed resolution reached between the U.S. Government and Carnival is currently unknown. The public will first learn of the proposed terms and conditions of the proposed resolution at the hearing scheduled for June 3rd, when the Court will decide whether to accept the deal reached out of court.

Motion to Intervene

The three victims are identified as Fortini Duncombe, who is the co-founder of a Bahamas Environmental group called “reEarth;” Eric Forrer, who is a fisherman working in Alaska; and Theodore Thoma, who is the head of a environmental group called “Responsible Cruising in Alaska.” (None of these individuals are seeking monetary damages). Letters were all filed yesterday in support of their motion to intervene outlining their first hand experiences caused by Carnival’s pollution. They represent the interests of victims in communities across the United States, from Florida to Alaska, and from California to Maine which rely on a clean environment for their livelihood and recreation.

Mr. Duncombe represents the sentiments of the citizens of the Bahamas which received the brunt of the illegal discharges by Carnival into its waters when cruise ships dumped plastics, bottle caps, wood, aluminum and other garbage which had been mixed together with food items discharged via food chutes.

You can read the motion to intervene and the letters from the victims here.

The victims’ motion to intervene explains that there were no victims present or heard at the proceedings which resulting in the original plea agreement several years ago between the US Government and Carnival.

Lowry argues that the absence of victims affected by the massive pollution scheme contributed to a weak and ineffectual compromise. The soft original sentence failed to bring about meaningful change in Carnival’s recidivist corporate culture and has ultimately resulted in continued criminal conduct by Carnival. The weak original plea agreement reached between the U.S. Government and Carnival, Lowry points out, is “aptly demonstrated by Carnival’s ongoing criminal violations of environmental laws, reflected in the reports of the Court Appointed Monitor (“CAM”), [and] the Government’s efforts to revoke Carnival’s probation . . . ”

The victims’ lawyer also asks that the Court should not consider another compromise between the U.S. Government and Carnival without “meaningful participation by the victims of Carnival’s environmental crimes . . .  [because] to do so would violate the letter and spirit of the CVRA and, equally importantly, the lack of transparency could cast a shadow over the legitimacy of these proceedings.”

Another Secret Sweet Deal?

This latter argument seems particularly appropriate considering it was the U.S. Government and Carnival which agreed to the first plea agreement which imposed just a modest fine of $40,000,000 which is a pittace given Carnival’s enormous profits. For example, Carnival collected net profits of well over $3,000,000,000 (billion) last year alone. There also was no accountability of the executives or senior managers in the cruise company’s widespread and ongoing pollution scheme. In my assessment, another deal struck in private (so far) between these two parties has the appearance of yet another sweet deal for what this Court has already labelled a “recidivist criminal.”

Letter From Concerned Citizens

Yesterday, Judge Patricia Seitz filed into the court record copies of letters which she received from concerned citizens regarding the highly publicized pollution case.

As we have reported before, in 2016, Princess pleaded guilty to widespread pollution over a period of eight years involving at least five Carnival-owned cruise ships, as well as conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The Court ordered Carnival Corporation and its subsidiary cruise brands to probation for a period of five years during which its operations have been monitored by court appointed experts to keep the cruise giant from continuing to pollute the environment.

The Court Appointed Monitor (CAM) submitted reports to the Court indicating that Carnival-owned cruise ships have continued to illegally make discharges, including grey water in Glacier Bay, Alaska and vast quantities of plastics, aluminum, and non-food items in the waters of the Bahamas. At a hearing in April,  Judge Seitz expressed her frustration with Carnival’s ongoing pollution. She reprimanded Carnival Corp.’s chairman, Micky Arison, and its president Arnold Donald, neither of whom were present at the hearing, stating that she regretted not being able to send the executives to a few days in detention. She stated that “the people at the top are treating this as a gnat. . .”

Judge Seitz stated previously that she will rule whether Carnival Corp.’s behavior warrants additional fines and/or other punishment. She characterized her previous sanction of $40,000,000 as a “drop in the bucket.”  She also  threatened to block the company from docking its one hundred cruise ships at U.S. ports.

The Miami Herald published these comments by the Court in a widely read series of articles which were published across the United States and internationally.  Since that time, concerned citizens and environmental groups have written to the Court. The majority of people have expressed support for serious sanctions to be entered against the Carnival cruise brands. These letters (with personal information redacted) have now been made public by the Court.

Two non-profits organizations, including Heal The Ocean, wrote letters to Judge Seitz expressing alarm regarding Carnival’s ongoing pollution and asked the Court to fine Carnival and bar its ships from U.S. ports.

One person who sailed on a Princess cruise ship to Alaska in September of 2018 complained that the Emerald Princess discharged a “yellowish plume of liquid” while the ship was docked in Skagway for at least 20 minutes.  She enclosed photographs of the discharge which appeared to be partially treated sewage.

One person asked the judge to carry through with her threatened punishment of Carnival for their “despicable mess of dumping grey water into Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park.”

Another concerned person expressed her feelings that “we need to do our best to take care of this planet . . . and we have to make a stand at some point against those who knowingly pollute it.”

Two future cruisers, however, who were more concerned that their upcoming cruises may be disrupted by a Court sanction, asked for the Court to be lenient with Carnival, with one person writing “Carnival asserted that there had been a misunderstanding. I’m sure their explanations are sincere . . .”

You can read the letters filed in court here.

Next Up – Hearing on Monday

The next hearing will take place this Monday, June 3rd. The Court has ordered all members of the Carnival Corporation and PLC Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, including Micky Arison, Arnold Donald, and Stuart Subotnick, to appear at the hearing at the federal courthouse.

Will Judge Seitz Do Anything Significant Regarding Carnival’s Ongoing Pollution?

In an informal poll which I posted here a month ago, two-thirds of those responding chose sanctions of $250,000,000 or more, or jail time for the executives, or both, to punish Carnival Corp. for its ongoing pollution and violation of its terms of probation.

There were several hundred people participating in the poll, most of who have very strong feelings about the issue of Carnival’s ongoing pollution and what the Court should do about it.

If you are inclined to voice your concerns to the Court, please write to her at the following address:

Re:  United States of America v. Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., Case No.: 16-20897.

Senior Judge Patricia A. Seitz

Willie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Courthouse

400 North Miami Avenue

Courtroom 11-4

Miami, Florida 33128

Her official email address is: 

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Photo credit: Carnival Food Chutes: top – Court Appointed Monitor; bottom – anonymous Carnival employee.

Court Filing From the Court Appointed Monitor