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Miner's News

Setback in the Fight to Restore the Rights of Suction Dredgers in California

February 27, 2010

California and Public Lands for the People (PLP) appeared at a hearing on February 25, 2010, regarding California's request for a motion to dismiss PLP's lawsuit against the state. This is the federal case where PLP was seeking an injunction to prevent the state from enforcing SB 670, the bill passed in August 2009 that prevented the state from spending general funds on the suction gold dredge permit program until a new EIR is prepared.

Judge England did not rule on the merits of the case. He accepted California's argument that the state is immune from litigation in federal court under the 11th Amendment. This was in direct conflict with California's Admission to the Union in 1850, which stated, "And be it further enacted, that the said State of California is admitted into the Union upon the express condition that the people of said State, through their legislature or otherwise, shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the public lands within its limits, and shall pass no law and do no act whereby the title of the United States to, and right to dispose of, the same shall be impaired or questioned…” (Emphasis added.)

"There is no reason for us to spend the time to attempt to second guess Judge Englands motives for his decision, but I did feel that he already had his mind made up," said Jerry Hobbs of PLP.

The alternative is to file a lawsuit in state court as a related case to the Hillman-Karuk case in Alameda County Superior Court and an accompanying injunction.

Hobbs stated, "We will take a few days and mull over the direction we must go and move in that direction. We will update you as to what is decided but we have no intention of giving up. I apologize for not being successful on this federal court issue but we could not predict this unreasonable decision."

We here at ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal certainly appreciate PLP's efforts in this matter. We believe taking the case to federal court was and still is the proper venue. We're dealing with federal mining laws and a state's disregard for such laws.

PLP has already filed an appeal in the Alameda County case. We'll keep you posted as new developments arise and when a decision is made on how to proceed.

Scott Harn
ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal

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