Obama's Chief Counsel Dismissed from 'Black October' Case

Two months ago, the New Times brought you the story of the "Black October" legal case in Miami's federal court, where a handful of poor Bolivians are suing Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada and Carlos Sanchez Berzain -- Bolivia's former president and defense minister -- for allegedly leading the massacre of 67 indigenous protesters and then fleeing for safety in the Magic City.

The case is still sitting on the desk of U.S. Judge Adelberto Jordan, who hasn't ruled yet whether the Bolivians have standing to sue the former leaders in Miami. But one key player won't be around to hear Jordan's ruling.

Greg Craig, President Obama's chief counsel and formerly the lead lawyer for de Lozada and Berzain, has been dismissed from the case owing to his new duties in the White House. The move didn't come as a surprise, one of the plaintiff's attorneys told Riptide.

"We anticipated that would happen. We're happy for him and wish him the

best in his career," says Steven Schulman, one of the lawyers working

with the Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic to

represent the Bolivian plaintiffs.

Schulman says he doesn't expect Craig's departure to affect the case. But the move does mean one big-time political heavy-hitter won't be standing behind de

Lozada and Berzain at future hearings in downtown Miami.

D.C.-based lawyer Howard Gutman -- who was less than thrilled with the New Times cover story  -- presumably will shoulder the defense's load for the rest of the suit.

Schulman doesn't expect Jordan to rule on whether the case can proceed in Miami until early summer.

"You can never predict for sure, and I certainly wouldn't read anything into it if the judge took longer," he says. "This is a complex matter, not a typical suit, so it's going to take some time."

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