Cockamamie legal theories
U.S. District Judge for Nevada Gloria Navarro issued her dismissal of all charges against Cliven Bundy and his sons Ammon and Ryan and co-defendent Ryan Payne on Jan 8. Constitutional conservatives owe the judge, an Obama appointee born in Las Vegas, thanks for impartially performing her duty in an exemplary fashion. By dismissing the charges with prejudice, the federal government cannot re-try them on these charges.
It may seem quaint to some, but there is such a thing as a U.S. Constitution. There are peer-reviewed treatises discussing the constitutional limits of federal management of real property. Perhaps more importantly, the legislatures and governors of eight western states, including Nevada, subscribe to the cockamamie belief that they should manage their own state lands. No doubt the political movement will be more important in the long run than constitutional arguments, because politicians hold revenue and votes more precious than ideas. It is much better to have state legislation and state representation than to stand alone in court and defy the federal government over money.
Nevertheless, when a longstanding grievance goes unanswered, history demonstrates individuals sometimes stand and speak truth to power. They become lightening rods and represent a cause to the public. The Bundy family is not the only instance of U.S. citizens willing to stand up to the state over money. The nation was founded by tax rebels. Henry David Thoreau went to prison rather than pay a tax. His essay “On Civil Disobedience” is an American classic.
Yes, the Bundy family and their friends are kinda rough around the edges. People who stand up for their beliefs are rarely polished cosmopolitans who talk like Morgan Freeman. But that does not mean they are simply petty crooks. The left loves to engage in ad hominem attacks, which is underhanded propaganda instead of real debate. Juries of 12 Oregonians and Nevadans have set free or hung on nearly every charge brought against the Bundy militia both for the 2014 Bunkerville standoff and later the Malheur Wildlife Sanctuary standoff. A man is dead, for pete’s sake—Roy Finecum, a 54 year old rancher and foster parent from Arizona. He was shot dead in a hail of FBI and state police bullets while on his way to a town hall meeting to discuss the reasons why he was with Ammon and others when they took over a shed on a federal wildlife preserve to protest what they believed was a railroaded prison sentence for a local rancher.
The FBI and federal prosecutors withheld vital evidence from the Bundy defense. They lied, several times. They displayed extreme prejudice against the defendants on the basis of their religion. They ground the Bundys’ 14 year old son’s face in the gravel and reveled in it.
The Bundys came upon strangers on their property. They believed the feds had planted snipers around their property. The feds denied it. But Judge Navarro saw to it that they produced the relevant documents that demonstrated there were indeed snipers planted around the Bundy ranch. The FBI said the Bundys were dangerous, but documents show their own agents denied they were a threat.
There is no constitutional basis for much of what the federal government does. We do not need to restore faith in the FBI, the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service. Upon his release, Cliven Bundy questioned the need for a federal army that came armed against him. We need to question the reason why so many federal employees carry guns. We need to let states and individuals find the highest and best use for the public lands.