Editorial: Press fights for your right to observe justice while it happens

Cliven Bundy at his ranch near Bunkerville (Getty Images via Politico)

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Battle Born Media newspapers and The Associated Press are continuing to push for public access to evidence in the federal case against Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, four of his sons and 14 others.

This past week attorney Maggie McLetchie, who represents the press as intervenors, filed another motion seeking to overturn an overly broad protective order that places everything being provided by government prosecutors in the discovery process to defense attorneys under a veil of secrecy. The reason given for the secrecy is some vague fear of intimidation. The government cites some threatening Internet posting, without any measure of confidence that the threat is anything more than some crackpot bloviating, but with no intention or capability to carry out a threat. (Motion to Intervene)

The 19 defendants are jailed without bail on charges that include obstruction of justice, conspiracy, extortion, assault and impeding federal officers growing out of the armed standoff in April 2014 between Bundy supporters and Bureau of Land Management agents attempting to roundup cattle Bundy had been grazing on public land for 20 years without benefit of a permit or the accompanying grazing fees. Fees and interest and penalties were said to top $1 million. Most of those defendants also oppose the protective order.

The Constitution guarantees a right to a public trial and the right to confront witnesses, and that includes during the procedures leading up to the trial, which is scheduled for nearly a year from now.

One of the more specious claims supporting sweeping secrecy is the fact Jerad and Amanda Miller, who later ambushed and killed two Las Vegas police officers and a civilian, were present at the standoff. No mention is made of the fact the Millers were told to leave the ranch because they were lunatic radical leftists involved in the Occupy Movement.

Prosecutors seeking the blanket secrecy wrote, “The Government has a reasonable fear that the defendants, or other supporters will further disseminate this information into the public domain for the purpose of harassing and intimidating these third parties, including victims and witnesses.” (Request for protective order)

McLetchie points out in her motion, “Intervenors are concerned about the First Amendment implications of the government’s proposed protective order … Intervenors have reported and will continue to provide members of the public with information about this case, which is a small part of a larger national dialogue about the ongoing competition for natural resources between ranchers, environmental groups, and the federal government. Given these concerns, as well as the controlling case law, it is imperative that the Court consider the First Amendment implications of the government’s proposed protective order in determining whether the government has established good cause.”

The attorney adds that Cliven Bundy himself has said, “(W)e want the press to shine the light of truth on this case so that the government cannot hide its misdeeds by burying those deeds …” — clearly a First Amendment concern.

“This case in part involves the fine line the government must walk when criminalizing speech — especially when the speech at issue is critical of the very government that is prosecuting the case,” the motion states. “The public has a right to evaluate the nature of the government’s case for itself. The need for transparency is especially important in light of the fact that this case involves government critics.”

Under the prosecution’s free-wheeling presumptions, every case would necessarily have to be conducted in secrecy because someone somewhere for some unknown reason might try to do something that might intimidate someone somewhere.

McLetchie cites case law that clearly requires something a little more specific than such vagaries. “Good cause is established on a showing that disclosure will work a clearly defined and serious injury to the party seeking closure. The injury must be shown with specificity. Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples or articulated reasoning, do not support a good cause showing,” she quotes.

The very purpose of providing discovery to defense attorneys is so they might be able to form a proper rebuttal to charges, which requires them to be able to talk to people about the evidence and witness statements and perhaps seek input from the public via the press.

If there are specific examples of real endangerment, prosecutors can redact that specifically and not keep everything under seal.

A version of this editorial appears this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

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15 comments on “Editorial: Press fights for your right to observe justice while it happens

  1. Winston Smith says:

    The fix is in, the feds have to make an example of the Bundys, and whatever is required to do that will be attempted. The mainstream media have to portray them as crazies that were ripping us all off because of their refusal to pay up, so we Americans are the victims of the evil ranchers. After all, in the public eye, after decades of being trained, it all comes down to whom the media portrays as the victims.

    War is Peace, after all…

    BTW, I just finished Finicum’s novel, “Only By Blood and Suffering”. It gave a good explanation of all the crap that has been going on for a century, and how the American people now behave after all the brainwashing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ah yes, the heroic ranchers and their minions. The ones that became millionaires due to their theft, and more so after they committed acts of aggression by force ably commandeering the property of others.

    The only brainwashing that is going on here, is in the minds of anyone that would defend these criminals because they hate the victims so much, they can’t see straight.

  3. Had Bundy followed the BLM orders he would have been out of business years ago, like every other rancher in Clark County, where once there were 50 and now there are none. Bundy was the last.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Had Bundy not insisted on stealing from others, and gone out of business because of it, well I guess that’s on capitalism.

    And it doesn’t change that he stole.

  5. Winston Smith says:

    Bundy stole from nobody. The Feds have refused to give the land to the western states after statehood. They are the usurpers and the thieves, not acting as a creation of the states, but as their master.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Bundy stole from everyone; he took what wasn’t his, which belonged to another, and converted it to his own use.

    And the state of Nevada conceded, for all eternity, when the federal government granted it permission to enter the union, that the land owned by the federal government, did, and would forever belong to the federal government, and that Nevada would never make a claim to that land.

    And, had the people living in the territory of what we now call Nevada decided that the contractual terms were unacceptable, they could have declined.

    But, the state, having expressly voiced their agreement with the terms of that contract, it’s not up to Bundy, or any other group or individual to try to disclaim it.

    Bundy is a thief, and he is now getting a small part of the justice he should have received when he stopped paying for what he was stealing.

    And thank God for that.

  7. The voters repealed the Disclaimer Clause in 1996. The clause was for the purpose of clearly up any deed questions until the property shall be sold, as happened in all states in the East. Nebraska had the exact same clause in its constitution. Today 1.1 percent of the land there is controlled by the feds, while 87 percent of Nevada is.

    Equal Footing Doctrine?

  8. Anonymous says:

    One side “disclaiming” a contract is meaningless. Be like my kids telling my mortgage company that their staying in the house, but not paying the mortgage cause they think the bank charged me too much to begin with.

    And there is no need to clarify the deed; the state of Nevada forever disclaimed any right to object no matter what.

    And the Equal Footing Doctrine is irrelevant.

    http://congressionalresearch.com/RL34267/document.php?study=Federal+Land+Ownership+Constitutional+Authority+and+the+History+of+Acquisition+Disposal+and+Retention

  9. Steve says:

    More BS sham from the wannabe formerly known as Patrick.

    “shall” does not mean “may”

  10. Winston Smith says:

    Some people love tyranny until it comes knocking on their door. Oh, sorry, it rarely knocks first…

  11. Steve says:

    No, it sneaks up and bites them on the ass.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The only tyranny here is that practiced by Bundy and his minions; taking that which belongs to others. Then, taking up arms to keep what he has wrongfully taken.

    Course, this is the end result of the libertarian philosophy; theft from others.

    Never thought Winston would be supportive though.

  13. Winston Smith says:

    Nice try, Anon, but no sale…

    BTW, if you’ve been studying patrick and DARPA, you’d realize that their fascist arguments have little weight here…

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry Winston, maybe I’ve misunderstood; are you suggesting that Bundy did NOT take something that did not belong to him?

    I thought even according to libertarian philosophy, theft was wrong.

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