From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 12 - June 17, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County to appeal Erramouspe Road decision

by Cat Urbigkit

The Sublette County Commission recently learned that a federal court had ruled against the county in its lawsuit with the Bureau of Land Management over the Erramouspe Road. The commission didn't know that the decision had been filed only a few days after the court hearing in the matter and was waiting for the decision so that an appeal could be prepared. The law firm handling the matter for the commission, the Budd-Falen firm of Cheyenne, hadn't notified the county of the decision because the firm apparently wasn't aware that the decision had been filed.

The federal court clerk's office routinely sends copies of the court's orders when they are filed. A clerk's office official said Monday that the order would have been sent to the county's attorney of record, which was Budd-Falen. However, no log of daily mail leaving and entering the office is kept, she said.

As it turns out, the federal attorney handling the case for the BLM's side didn't know about the decision being filed either. Contacted Monday, Carol Statkus of the U.S. Attorney's office said that she also found about the decision being filed "in a roundabout way, about the same time the plaintiff's attorneys did."

Statkus, checking the status of another case, checked the court docket and learned the decision had been filed. It appears neither party had been notified that the written decision had been issued. Statkus declined to speculate about why neither party had received the decision in the mail from the court.

The problem for the county in learning about the decision three months after the fact was that the appeal period had long passed. But at direction from the commission and Sublette County Attorney Van Graham, Budd-Falen requested an extension of time to file an appeal, and the federal court has granted that extension, restoring the county's right to appeal the adverse decision.

Considering the circumstances, Statkus noted, "The government did not oppose that motion by the county for more time."

But the commission once again expressed frustration with the Budd-Falen law firm for its lack of communication to the commission that the extension had been granted by the court. When the commission met Tuesday and discussed the matter with Graham, the time period for filing the appeal was down to just a few days. Graham said the law firm hadn't contacted him either.

Commissioner Betty Fear asked if the county had Budd-Falen file the notice of appeal, would that mean that the firm would get to handle the appeal for the county, to which Johnston said, "I am dead-set against them doing it."

Graham said the county could have Budd-Falen file the notice of appeal with the court to preserve the county's appeal right, but the county could have another law firm or attorney handle the appeal itself in the high court.

Commissioner Bill Cramer said it's been frustrating to deal with the Budd-Falen firm, to which Commission Chairman Gordon Johnston said, "It has been a failure."

The commission was set to have a telephone conference call with Budd-Falen Wednesday afternoon as the Examiner went to press. The commission expressed its intent to have the firm file the notice of intent with the court, just hours before the deadline.

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