Never Say Die: MSLF Refuses to Accept Injustice in a Case Dating Back Decades

Denver, Colorado — December 3, 2020 — No one ever accused Mountain States Legal Foundation of lacking persistence in pursuit of justice. Hand the group a compelling case on behalf of a worthy client – even a case that dates to the 1980s — and it’s like a hungry dog going after a bone.    

MSLF on Wednesday filed a second amended complaint in the decades-old case of Solenex v. Bernhardt, showing that it’s not giving up on extracting justice from a federal agency that bent over backwards to prevent Solenex from developing an oil and gas lease it’s been trying to use for nearly 40 years.  

MSLF first filed the suit in 2014 as a mandamus action, hoping to compel the Bureau of Land Management to issue a decision on the decades-old suspension. MSLF won the mandamus action but the government responded — again arbitrarily and capriciously — by cancelling the lease in its entirety, based on a purported procedural error made by BLM in 1982.  

Not to be deterred, MSLF amended its complaint to challenge this cancellation, resulting in another favorable ruling for its client. But the government appealed and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, arguing that the trial court judge didn’t adequately support his decision in favor of Solenex. 

The case is now back before the trial court “on remand,” meaning the DC Circuit sent the case back to the lower court with instructions to basically “fix” a decision that’s inconsistent with the DC Circuit’s opinion.   

“With the filing of this new complaint, MSLF hopes to clarify the nature of the harm done to Solenex, draw the court’s attention to relevant materials that were overlooked the first time around, and provide the court with everything it needs to fully address the issues and rule in our favor,” explained MSLF Attorney David C. McDonald. “This court has already ruled in our favor twice, and we’re confident we’ll be even more successful this time around.” 

McDonald called it a “bittersweet moment” for MSLF and his client, because Solenex Founder Sidney Longwell passed away earlier this year without seeing a resolution to the dispute, after fighting for his property rights for nearly 40 years. Longwell would have wanted to see the fight through to a successful conclusion, McDonald says, because he was fighting for a higher principle, which may become more relevant than ever with the apparent election of a new President.  

“Given the incoming administration’s expressed hostility to multiple use in general and oil and gas development in particular, it is more important than ever for us to push back on the arbitrary use of governmental authority we see in this case,” explained McDonald. “We’re not just fighting here for the justice and property rights that Sidney was denied; but for every other ‘Sidney’ out there who confronts the immense and arbitrary power of the federal government. That’s always a fight worth going the distance on.”   

Follow this link for more about the case. Here and here are the latest filings in the case.