Larry Hogan joined in the attacks of the most extreme Purple Line supporters in accusing U.S. District Court Judge Robert Leon of being conflicted in the case. As Bethesda Beat reported:
Hogan, who discussed the project with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao during a meeting last month, said the $900 million can’t be “shaken loose” because of Leon’s alleged conflicts.
“Secretary Chao can’t do anything about a judge whose wife happens to be involved in an opponent group and who has a conflict of interest who’s making a decision to hold this up,” Hogan said.
However, there is no real evidence of the claim that Judge Leon’s wife is involved beyond her membership in a citizens association that has opposed the project:
Christine Leon, the judge’s wife, has been a block captain for Andover Road for the Brookdale Citizens Association since at least 2005, according to documents posted on the associations’ website. The association is part of the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, which testified against the Purple Line in 2008 during a public hearing hosted by the state and submitted written testimony on stationery that noted the group was “representing the Citizens Associations of Brookdale, Chevy Chase Village” and other nearby communities. There’s no evidence that Christine Leon personally lobbied against the project.
One can only imagine the cries of sexism that would have emerged from Purple Line Now if the judge had ruled the other way and Purple Line opponents accused him of a conflict. Hogan went to spread a bizarre outright lie:
“But even with federal funding, we can’t move forward because of a judge who lives at a Chevy Chase country club,” Hogan noted.
Leon’s house is actually about 3 miles from Columbia Country Club in the Brookdale neighborhood of Chevy Chase.
Of course, Greater Greater Washington joined in the smear.
Lack of Transparency or Responsiveness
If the State thought there was a real conflict, they would have brought it up before the case was heard. As it stands, these sour grapes look designed to cover up the State’s total lack of transparency or responsiveness regarding the question of ridership raised in the judge’s decision.
Specifically, the judge wanted to know how the steady decline in Metro’s ridership will impact estimated ridership on the Purple Line. As is well known, Metro ridership has been affected by its chronic problems along with the rise of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft as well as telecommuting.
The State’s response to the judge’s concern was not to present any analysis but instead to thumb its nose at the court and declare such an analysis unnecessary. The claim of the unimportance of transfers directly contradicts the State’s own website, which highlights as a major benefit that the light rail “Connects to Metrorail Green and Orange lines and both branches of the Red Line.” Oops.
The State’s failure to respond to Judge Leon is a continuation of its total lack of transparency on how the ridership figures were calculated. MTA has consistently refused to divulge critical information about how the ridership numbers were calculated by Parsons Brinckerhoff. Call it a faith-based initiative.
Frankly, I have little expertise as to the legal or substantive merits of judge’s decision. I’m not a lawyer let alone an expert in environmental law. Nor do I know Judge Leon or anything about his record. But leaving legal questions entirely aside, why is the State so desperate that it must demean the court? Why has the State stonewalled and hidden the critical ridership analysis? If the Purple Line is so great, why not reveal all?
Why the secrecy?