Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wilkie v. Robbins

IDB Editorial:
The roots of this case go back to 1993 when Harvey Frank Robbins bought the High Island Ranch in Hot Spring County, Wyo. The previous owner had agreed to give the Bureau of Land Management an easement on his land. There was no record of the agreement, however, and Robbins, who was not aware of the deal at the time of purchase, did not want the government using roads on his property. Because of his refusal, Robbins says the government began a campaign of retaliation against him to extort the easement.

Writing in Legal Times, Robbins' lawyers R.S. Radford and Timothy Sandefur of the Pacific Legal Foundation said the government "repeatedly harassed the guests at (Robbins') ranch, cited him for minor infractions while letting similar violations by his neighbors go unnoticed, and brought him up on criminal charges of interfering with federal agents during their duties. The jury acquitted him after deliberating for less than 30 minutes."
Our government's position:
In representing the government, Solicitor General Paul Clement wrote a brief that includes the heading:

"There Is No Fifth Amendment Right Against Retaliation For The Exercise Of Property Rights."

Or, in less legalistic terms used by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe when arguing on Robbins' behalf before the Supreme Court, "The position of the government here is that there is no constitutional limit on the kind of retaliation they can engage in."

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