Writings and observations

Here’s something for the armed sit-in crowd at the Malheur refuge to consider.

One of the major figures in the sagebrush rebellion, which begat the current round of anti-federal lands movements in the west, was Helen Chenoweth, a three-term member of Congress from Idaho. After she retired from that post, she married Nevada rancher Wayne Hage, who for many years has had a running legal battle with federal land management agencies, especially the Bureau of Land Management. (Chenoweth-Hage died in 2006.)

The Hage family won at federal court in Reno in May 2013, when a federal judge agreed with their argument that they could graze their cattle on federal land because of a water right claim in the area. But they lost yesterday at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

There, the court held that the family, as a news report said, was “guilty of trespassing cattle on federal land illegally without a grazing permit and should be subject to fines.”

More remarkably, the circuit court did something appellate courts seldom do – specifically trained fire on the conduct of the lower court judge who had issued the initial ruling. Overturns are not notably rare, but the description the 9th provided of District Judge Robert Clive Jones was very unusual.

It made the rare move too of reassigning the case when kicked back to the district level, done “only in rare and extraordinary circumstances, such as when the district court has exhibited personal bias or when reassignment is advisable to maintain the appearance of justice,” the court noted. But in this case, “A dispassionate observer would conclude that the district judge harbored animus toward the federal agencies. Unfortunately, the judge’s bias and prejudgment are a matter of public record.”

These things eventually come home to roost. So will they at the Malheur. – rs (photo/Copyright Pauline E and licensed for reuse)

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First Take

During watching the Democratic presidential debate last night, only a few days after watching the Republican, the point emerged: The questions asked of these guys are drastically different.

To a certain point this makes sense, because some questions are specific to individual candidates, or to things one candidate said about another. Not all questions are transferable.

A lot of them should be, though. Questions about a lot of topics raised in one debate never made it over to the other, which allows for the two parties to run campaigns in two entirely different worlds, entirely different bubbles.

This is one of the problems with our current politics: We’re not talking about the same things, using the same base of facts (or getting them challenged when need be, not well enough). Candidate-specific questions removed, I’d like to see the questions asked at the two debates, in future face office, flipped to the other party. Talking directly to each other, and listening, might be a lot more useful to us all than more of this talking past each other. – rs

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First Take