Only days after a federal judge delivered a stinging rebuke to a prosecution assembled under Barack Obama’s administration over a land standoff in Nevada, many of the participants are heading back to court.
This time, rancher Cliven Bundy is seeking a judicial ruling that the federal land in Nevada on which he was grazing cattle belongs to the state of Nevada and the people of Clark County, not the U.S. government.
Former federal prosecutor Larry Klayman, who has been working through the Cliven Bundy Defense Fund, filed the complaint in the state’s Eighth Judicial District Court.
The federal government’s case against Bundy, two of his sons and militia member Ryan Payne this month disintegrated when Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro issued a scathing analysis of the government’s conduct regarding a 2014 standoff at the family’s longtime family ranch, terming it “outrageous.”
“There has been flagrant misconduct, substantial prejudice and no lesser remedy is sufficient,” she said.
The charges were dismissed with prejudice, which means the federal government will not be able to retry the men.
Now Klayman has filed a suit against the state, county, individuals and corporations arguing that while the federal government briefly held rights to the land when the territories became states, “the land was disposed of by U.S. Congress to the people of Territory of Nevada.”
He cites an 1845 Supreme Court ruling establishing that such lands were under the control of the feds “for the purposes of temporary government” and “to hold it in trust for the performance of the stipulations and conditions expressed in the deeds of cession and the legislative acts connected with them.”
Klayman told WND, “A state court judge is going to be hard pressed to rule that the land does not belong to the people of Nevada and Clark County.”
The complaint points out that “the legislature of Nevada has never consented to allow the U.S. government to own at least 85 percent of the land within Nevada’s borders; and the intent of the territorial legislature was not to cede the land to the U.S. government ‘forever,’ but to clear title of all unappropriated lands with the territory so U.S. Congress could dispose of the lands to the state.”
Further, the complaint explains, Nevada “expressly repudiated federal ownership of the subject land when it enacted a series of statutes declaring ownership of and control and jurisdiction over all ‘public lands’ within Nevada.”
It was James Madison who insisted “new states shall be admitted on the same terms with the original states.”
The complaint explains that in 1866, Congress adopted an act setting the boundaries of Nevada that “erased any possible prior claim of the United States of America to the public lands within Nevada’s borders.”
The dispute began when the U.S. government, charging Bundy owed more than $1.3 million in fees for grazing his cattle on “public” land, sent in armed agents to try to confiscate his cattle. Armed ranchers from across the nation joined him in the standoff, and the feds backed down.
They later brought a long list of charges against Bundy and his family, which were dismissed and enjoined from being re-filed.
His claim is that the people of the state own the land, not Washington.
His family owns 160 private acres and “co-owns all the unclaimed land (public land) along with all the people of Nevada and Clark County equally.”
Bundys have ranched there for nearly 150 years.
He’s seeking a declaratory judgment against the federal government. The complaint contends the ownership is in dispute, and it seeks to transfer title to the land to the state of Nevada.
“As a man who has lawfully acquired grazing, water, and other rights to the Nevada and its subdivision, Clark County, public lands in question, and a man dependent upon Nevada’s and Clark County’s lawful rights to the land, petitioner is entitled to an order quieting title to Nevada and its subdivision … in order to protect petitioner and the Bundy Ranch’s rights to graze and water the cattle on the land of Nevada.”
In the now-closed case, Navarro declared the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office had failed to disclose crucial evidence that would have helped the defense.
- Records about surveillance at the Bundy ranch
- Maps about government surveillance
- Records about the presence of government snipers
- FBI logs about activity at the ranch in the days leading up to standoff
- Law-enforcement assessments dating to 2012 that found the Bundys posed no threat
- Internal affairs reports about misconduct by Bureau of Land Management agents
The government also made false claims, said the judge, including denying the existence of snipers surveying the Bundy ranch, when such snipers existed.
Klayman, among others, has argued the prosecution of the Bundy family was entirely political.