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Nevada Association of Counties v. United States Department of Interior

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 2, 2014

NEVADA ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES, et al., Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

WILLIAM G. COBB, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court are motions to intervene filed by Laura Leigh (Doc. # 6)[1] and American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), Terri Farley (Farley) and Mark Terrell (Terrell) (Doc. # 10).[2] Plaintiffs Nevada Association of Counties and Nevada Farm Bureau Federation filed a response. (Doc. # 20.)[3] AWHPC, Farley and Terrell filed a reply. (Doc. # 22.)[4]

I. BACKGROUND

On December 30, 2013, Plaintiffs filed their complaint for declaratory judgment, injunctive and other relief under the Wild-Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burrow Act of 1971, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331, et. seq. (Wild Horse Act), the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551, et. seq. (the APA), the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and other federal statutes and regulations related to the management of wild horses and burros in Nevada. (Doc. # 1.) The named defendants include the United States Department of the Interior (DOI); the Honorable Sally Jewell (Secretary of the Interior); The Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Neil Kornze (Deputy Director, BLM); Edwin Roberson (Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning, BLM); Amy Leuders (State Director, Nevada State Office, BLM); and Does 1-50. ( Id. )

Plaintiffs allege that federal defendants' failure to follow the law with respect to the management of wild horses and burros in Nevada has resulted in harm to the animals, damage to rangelands in Nevada, and a variety of adverse economic and environmental impacts. ( Id. ) Plaintiffs seek, among other things, an injunction requiring the federal defendants to conduct gathers of excess animals on public lands managed by DOI and BLM in Nevada which exceed current guidelines; determine (at least every two months) the current population of animals in Nevada and promptly conduct gathers of excess animals; cease long-term warehousing of animals removed from excess populations and instead promptly proceed to auction, sell or otherwise properly dispose of animals; adhere to multiple use principles in carrying out their responsibilities; and cease interference with Nevada water rights owned by third parties. ( Id. )

On January 14, 2014, the federal defendants filed a notice of appearance. (Doc. # 5.)

On January 26, 2014, Laura Leigh filed her motion to intervene. (Doc. # 6.) On February 27, 2014, AWHPC, Farley and Terrell filed their motion to intervene. (Doc. # 10.) The court will now address whether the movants should be allowed to intervene in this action.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 governs intervention and provides for intervention as a matter of right (Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)) and permissive intervention (Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(b)).

Intervention as a matter of right must be granted if on timely motion, the proposed intervenor can establish that the right to intervene is provided unconditionally by federal statute or "claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest." Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a).

In the Ninth Circuit, an applicant seeking to intervene as a matter of right must demonstrate: (1) the intervention application is timely; (2) the applicant has a significant protectable interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action; (3) the disposition of the action may, as a practical matter, impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect its interest; and (4) the existing parties may not adequately represent the applicant's interest. Citizens for Balanced Use v. Mont. Wilderness Ass'n, 647 F.3d 893, 897 (9th Cir. 2012) (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Wilderness Soc. v. U.S. Forest Serv., 630 F.3d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 2011).

Permissive intervention also requires a timely motion, and may be granted to an applicant who has a "conditional right to intervene by a federal statute" or "has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b)(1). In deciding whether to grant permissive intervention, "the court must consider whether the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the original parties' rights." Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b)(3).

Regardless of whether the applicant seeks to intervene as a matter of right or permissively, the Ninth Circuit has established a liberal policy favoring intervention. Wilderness Soc., 630 F.3d at 1179. This allows for "both efficient resolution of issues and broadened access to the courts." Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

Both movants seek to intervene as a matter of right, and alternatively, request permissive intervention. The court will first address whether they are entitled to intervene as a matter of right, and then will turn to the question of permissive intervention as an alternative request.

A. INTERVENTION AS A MATTER OF RIGHT

1. Timeliness

Timeliness is "the threshold requirement' for intervention as of right." League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Wilson, 131 F.3d 1297, 1302 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting United States v. Or, 913 F.2d 576, 588 (9th Cir. 1990)). In determining whether a motion to intervene is timely, a court should consider: "(1) the stage of the proceeding at which an applicant seeks to intervene; (2) the prejudice to other parties; and (3) the reason for and length of [any] delay." Id. (quotation marks omitted).

These motions are undeniably timely. Ms. Leigh's was filed within a month of the filing of the complaint and that of AWHPC, Farley and Terrell was filed within approximately two months of the filing of the complaint. Moreover, the federal defendants have yet to file a responsive pleading. Therefore, this ...


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