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Thursday, 23 April 2020

A Man Sued The Federal Government. He Died 38 Years Later Without A Resolution.

Taking on the federal government over an injustice is, in many cases, an insurmountable task, yet that is what Sidney Longwell set out to do 38 years ago.
Longwell’s attorney, David McDonald, wrote about his client’s case at The Federalist (where I also have a byline).
“Sidney purchased a Montana oil and gas lease from the federal government in 1982, passed a decade’s worth of rigorous environmental and archaeological reviews, and was all set to develop the land when government suspended his lease in 1993. He spent 38 years fighting a David-and-Goliath battle to use the leased mineral rights — a battle I’m still fighting as an attorney for his family,” McDonald explained.
Longwell was able to prove that environmental and tribal cultural concerns over his land were unfounded and obtained drilling approvals for the land on four separate occasions, McDonald wrote. Despite this, the federal government refused to allow Longwell to develop on the land and stonewalled him in his lawsuit against them.
“A favorable court ruling in 2016 seemed to promise a resolution. But, given 21 days to come up with a schedule to act, the government dug in its heels instead, abruptly cancelling the lease. Incredibly, the government’s lawyers justified the decision by inventing a procedural defect that contradicted what agency officials had told Sidney for 30 years,” McDonald wrote.
Longwell died last month at age 81, still waiting for the federal government to come through.
McDonald explained just why Longwell and people like him (some of whom McDonald also represents) face an impossible task while taking on the feds:
Federal agencies have practically limitless resources to fight court battles, in both money and manpower. They have no competition, no shareholders to placate, and no one person who can be held personally responsible for their malfeasance. They also have the cruelest weapon of all — time.
McDonald went on to say that there are “many examples of federal agencies weaponizing bureaucratic delay against American citizens.” In some cases, the federal government doesn’t even bother denying an application or permit – because that can be appealed – instead they just never finish processing the permit, making the person wait indefinitely. People can sue, but as McDonald already explained, the federal government has all the time in the world to wait until the person either runs out of money or dies, as in Longwell’s case.
“What happened to Sidney Longwell is a grave injustice, and one that is becoming too common. Another of my clients, Monte Ray — also in his 80s — is still awaiting a decision on mineral patents he applied for in 1991. Another client: small, family-owned, Colorado oil company WillSource Enterprise, has been fighting the federal government’s delay tactics in processing their permits since 1995,” McDonald wrote.
Longwell’s family has now inherited this battle, meaning it may continue for decades more.

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