We have once again appealed to the Montana Supreme Court because Ravalli County and the District Court have refused to consider any evidence that disputes their predetermined outcome.
Hughes Creek landowners have been denied due process by the District Court. Judge Langton’s most recent decision ignores completely the Supreme Court’s previous decision by refusing to hear our request for a writ of review.
Two weeks before Langton’s dismissal of our lawsuit, Commissioner Burrows reportedly told the Ravalli Republic, “We think we have the decision already, but we’re going to let the legal process play out. I think … we’ll soon have a decision with a favorable ruling.”
Personally I find it suspicious that a county government official — who is determined to take away private property rights — can so accurately predict what a District Court Judge will decide before we had even had an opportunity to respond to the county’s request for dismissal.
And it seems the county’s attorneys are confident they can predict what the Supreme Court decision will be on this appeal. According to Dan Browder, deputy attorney, the likelihood of success for us is “extremely low” because Langton dismissed our arguments “conclusively and decisively” in his ruling. I find this claim highly suspicious as well.
Over the past two and a half years, as we have waged this battle with our own elected representatives, it has been apparent that some of the county commissioners decided what they wanted the outcome to be and have used only the documentary evidence that supports that decision, while intentionally ignoring and refusing to consider any evidence that disputes their claims.
We were denied historical evidence for a prolonged period of time because the documents were stored in a contaminated location that could not be accessed due to environmental regulations. That sounds ridiculous, I know, but it really happened.
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We found evidence in the Clerk and Recorder’s office that was not found or considered by the County Commission when they made their initial decision, and every time we have tried to get the commissioners and their attorneys to review and consider it, they have refused. It doesn’t fit their agenda so it doesn’t exist.
How many taxpayer dollars have been spent fighting in the courts to open a road through private property that Commissioner Burrows has admitted is not likely to draw large numbers of people looking to recreate on public lands?
“There’s not real great fishing there and the hunting area requires hunters to draw a permit,” he reportedly told the Ravalli Republic. “As soon as this all dies down, I think only a few people will actually go there.”
So why is it necessary to open this road through private property to provide “legal access” to public land or waters?
One news report recently described one Hughes Creek landowner as “defiant over the county’s decision.” Yes, we are defiant. The county is wrong and is intent on using every procedural and legal trick it can devise to have its own way. No matter what is the truth. No matter what is really in the public’s interest.
Jay Bugli has owned land in the Hughes Creek area for over 10 years. His family and another Hughes Creek landowner recently filed notice of a second appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.