Hage case returns

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Jan 15 that prominent Nevada rancher Wayne Hage and his family illegally grazed cattle on public land and are subject to fines. The court was also unusually critical of U.S. District Judge Robert Clive Jones, whose ruling the Ninth overturned.

At issue was a dispute over whether the Hage family needed grazing permits or whether its water rights on public land sufficed. Jones ruled for the Hages. The Ninth overturned him. Jones “grossly abused the power of contempt” when he held federal officials in contempt of court for enforcing the law, the ruling said. It transferred the case out of Jones’ court. The court quoted a previous opinion that faulted “the most tyrannical [judicial] licentiousness.”

Wayne Hage, now deceased, was a leading figure in disputes between Western ranchers and the federal government. The case is Seley; Williams vs. Estate of E. Wayne Hage, 13-17039.