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United States v. Bundy

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 12, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CLIVEN D. BUNDY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LARRY R. HICKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On October 9, 2013, the court granted the United States' motion to enforce a previously ordered injunction. ECF No. 56. Cliven Bundy now moves to reopen, set aside, or vacate the 2013 order.[1] ECF No. 61. The United States opposed Bundy's motion, and Bundy replied. ECF Nos. 67, 70. The court now denies Bundy's motion, finding it untimely in part and meritless as a whole. Because the court finds the motion untimely and meritless, it also denies Bundy's request for an evidentiary hearing.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This matter began in March 1998, at which time the United States filed suit against Bundy for the unauthorized and unlawful grazing of his livestock on property owned by the United States. ECF No. 1. In a November 1998 order, the court permanently enjoined Bundy from grazing his livestock on the property. ECF No. 19. The 1998 order also instructed Bundy to remove his livestock from the property and to pay $200 per day per head for any remaining livestock on the property after November 30, 1998. Id. Bundy appealed the court's order, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the order in May 1999. ECF No. 42. Thereafter, Bundy failed to comply with the court's order. ECF No. 45. The court then issued a second order in September 1999 that demanded Bundy's compliance with the first order and that modified the daily damages owed to the United States. ECF No. 45. Bundy failed again to comply with the court's order. See ECF No. 56.

         After Bundy failed to comply with the court's 1998 and 1999 orders, the court issued a third order in October 2013. Id. The 2013 order directed Bundy to remove his livestock from the property within 45 days. Id. In the event that Bundy did not remove his livestock within 45 days, the order authorized the United States to impound any of Bundy's livestock that remained on the property. Id. The order also authorized the United States to continue to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy's livestock for future trespasses as long as the United States complied with the notice requirements under the governing regulations of the Department of the Interior. Id. Finally, the order commanded Bundy to not interfere with any impoundment operations. Id.

         Despite being given three opportunities by way of court orders, Bundy failed to remove his livestock from the property. See ECF Nos. 61 at 3-5, 67 at 2-3. Thus, under the 2013 order, the United States initiated impoundment operations to remove the livestock from the property in 2014. See ECF Nos. 61 at 3-5, 67 at 2-3. But Bundy and his supporters clashed with the enforcing government agents during the impoundment operations. The clash led to the government's abandonment of the impoundment operation out of fear for the safety of those who were involved. ECF Nos. 61 at 5, 67 at 2-3.

         Bundy alleges that the government agents caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to improvements made by him or his ancestors to the property over the years prior to 2014 and the death of over 40 head of cattle as a result of the impoundment operations. ECF No. 61 at 3-5. Based on his allegations and the facts of this case, Bundy now moves to reopen, set aside, or vacate the 2013 order. ECF No. 61.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60 permits a party to move for relief from a final judgment under certain circumstances. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). Such circumstances include the judgment being void, the judgment being satisfied, or any other reason that justifies relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(4)-(6). The relief must be sought within a reasonable time. Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1).

         While Rule 60(b) allows a party to move for relief from a final judgment, it is not granted liberally; the relief instead is an “extraordinary remedy, to be used sparingly in the interests of finality and conservation of judicial resources.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 887, 890 (9th Cir. 2000). Courts must take “into consideration the interest in finality, the reason for delay, the practical ability of the litigant to learn earlier of the grounds relied upon, and prejudice to other parties.” Lemoge v. United States, 587 F.3d 1188, 1196-97 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         To begin, the court first considers the timeliness of Bundy's motion. It then addresses Bundy's arguments under Rule 60(b) and under the theory of equitable estoppel.

         A. Timeliness

         The court first determines if Bundy asserted his motion in a timely manner. Rule 60(c) requires that a Rule 60(b) motion to be filed “within a reasonable time.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(c)(1). “What constitutes ‘reasonable time' depends upon the facts of each case, taking into consideration the interest in finality, the reason for delay, the practical ability of the litigant to learn earlier of the grounds relied upon, and prejudice to other parties.” Lemoge, 587 F.3d at 1196-97 (internal quotation marks removed). Importantly, ...


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