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Ex-border official takes firing to court

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – A former border official who claims his dismissal was influenced by politics is going to federal court this week, claiming that the Bush administration had no authority to fire him.

The White House fired Dennis Schornack, of Williamston, Mich., on July 10 from his position as U.S. representative to the International Boundary Commission. The small U.S.-Canadian agency serves as caretaker for the border between the two countries.

His abrupt dismissal came after he and the Justice Department began arguing about his legal representation in a lawsuit filed by Washington state property owners. The plaintiffs are trying to stop the commission from tearing down a concrete wall in their backyard, which abuts the Canadian border.

Schornack claims that treaties establishing the border agency allow him to leave office only by resigning, dying or becoming incapacitated.

But in a court filing Friday, the Justice Department called Schornack’s assertion “breathtaking.”

Schornack’s lawyer, Elliot Feldman of Washington, D.C., said Sunday night that Schornack’s response, due today, was not yet complete. But he said it would revolve largely around whether the commission is an agency of the United States, “because if it is not, the Justice Department has no business representing it.”

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

The underlying lawsuit was brought in April when Herbert and Shirley-Ann Leu of Blaine asked a federal court to stop Schornack and his Canadian counterpart from removing their wall. The two officials personally ordered the Leus to remove the wall, saying it intruded on a 10-foot border “vista” that must be kept clear of obstructions.

In the Leus’ neighborhood, the international boundary is a roadside ditch. They can enter Canada simply by crossing the street.

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