Friday, October 17, 2014

Convictions for unlawful grazing on public lands upheld

U.S. v. Jones, 2014 WL 4938034 (10/3/14) (Wyo.) (Published) - A handy case for the next time you represent a cattle rancher. Mr. Jones is apparently a Cliven-Bundy-type rancher. He couldn't manage to keep his cattle and other stuff off of BLM property since the early 1990's. The 10th held there was sufficient evidence to convict him of 2 counts of unauthorized grazing on public lands given: testimony by several witnesses of his longstanding history of allowing his cattle to graze without permission on public lands; BLM ranger's testimony that the ranger made Mr. Jones aware of the public land boundary line; and tire marks from a dual-wheeled vehicle like Mr. Jones's found near a large number of grazing cattle. There was also sufficient evidence Mr. Jones was guilty of unauthorized use of public lands where: testimony indicated lumber, vehicles and other stuff were left on a BLM allotment; one of the vehicles left was registered to Mr. Jones; the ranger made Mr. Jones aware of the land's public status; Mr. Jones was given 60 days to remove the stuff; he promised to do so, but he didn't.

The state's fence-out law, which apparently requires people to build fences to keep livestock out, does not apply to the BLM. Federal law reigns supreme. So Mr. Jones's proffered testimony by a sheriff that the sheriff believed the fence-out law should apply was irrelevant and, in any event, its admission would violate Evidence Rule 403 because it would cause jury confusion. Mr. Jones received due process by virtue of his trial. It didn't matter that his summons didn't bear the court's seal, that the Interior Secretary did not give written approval of the prosecution, that no administrative process was followed pre-prosecution, or that Mr. Jones received no notice a grazing violation would result in a criminal charge Can you tell this guy was representing himself?