Lawsuit Challenges Decades of Federal Agency Inaction

Denver, CO — April 10, 2019 — Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) filed a petition for a writ of mandamus today in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia in the case, Rayco, LLC v. Bernhardt.

The case involves a small mining claim; but it reveals a very big problem—the government’s ability to stall legal processes indefinitely and deny justice through decades of inaction.

One of the most nefarious ways in which government agencies harm the citizens they regulate is the strategic use of inaction. Rather than denying people’s permits, petitions, and applications, agencies can simply refuse to take any action at all.

This is precisely what the government did to the Ray family. Emerson and Fay Ray first staked a claim on what would become known as the Cima Cinder Mine in Southern California in 1948. There they produced red and black cinder for the Las Vegas and Los Angeles construction markets. Multiple generations of the Ray family have worked the Cima Cinder Mine.

In 1991, the family applied to patent their mining claims, a legal process that, if successful, would have given them permanent ownership of the land they had mined for generations. While their applications were pending, Congress issued a national moratorium on processing any new patent applications, but specifically ordered the Secretary of the Interior to continue processing existing applications and approve or deny nearly all of them within five years.

The government has simply refused to act.

The family’s business has tragically fallen into decay since the government forced them out in 1999. The government’s inaction made it impossible for the Rays to get their plan of operations approved—a requirement to legally work an unpatented mining claim in the area the Cima Cinder Mine is located. With this lawsuit the Rays hope to reclaim their mine, and their family business.

“This case is about the federal government’s refusal to do its job for more than 25 years,” said David McDonald, and MSLF attorney working on the case. “In all that time, the government has refused to provide an answer, one way or another. The government forced the Rays into a purgatory where not only do they not get the patents they’re entitled to, but they have been robbed of even a final decision that they could challenge in court.”

Explore this case

Rayco, LLC v. Bernhardt

View Case