Argument before the Ninth Circuit:
"Federal Government Reducing Nevada
To Legal Status of Mere U.S. Territory"
By Steve Miller
copyright (c) 1996, Electric Nevada
|The federal government's assertion that it holds title to 87% of the land surface of the State of Nevada is having both the practical and legal effect of depriving Nevada citizens of their constitutional rights to equal protection under the law.|
|That's the conclusion of a
far-reaching legal argument now before the United States
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.
The case -- brought by Elko County rancher Cliff Gardner and being watched closely by both friends and foes of the resurgent Sagebrush Rebellion -- is a fundamental challenge to the legal authority of federal agencies to own or administer lands in the American West. [See EN 's July report on Gardner, his Ruby Valley ranch and the origins of the case.]
Not only does the appeal assert that the Federal government never had constitutional authority to legislatively reserve unappropriated lands in the West, but it also contends there is no constitutional basis for any Federal claim of police power jurisdiction over those same lands.
Gardner's attorney, Glade Hall, of Reno, acknowledges that defenses so radical-sounding will no doubt face long odds before the Ninth Circuit. But he remains convinced that -- at least on the basis of the actual underlying constitutional arguments -- the case is solid.
"We're hopeful," said Hall, "but,
not much the Ninth Circuit can do other than [for] one of
the judges to write an opinion that will get the interest
of the United States Supreme Court to take a look at this
citizens of New Jersey
(for example). While a citizen of Jersey participates in
the domestic affairs of Nevada, a Nevada citizen has
little to say about what goes on in New Jersey,"
with the land surface
of a sovereign state in such a manner," he writes.
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