The Justice Department filed an appeal Wednesday of its devastating defeat against Cliven Bundy in the Nevada standoff, disputing the federal judge’s decision last year to throw out the case based on prosecutorial wrongdoing.
The 88-page motion, filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenged Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro’s blistering finding of “flagrant” misconduct, which prompted her to declare a mistrial in December 2017 and dismiss the charges a month later.
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday they plan to appeal their demoralizing defeat in the Nevada standoff trial, which saw a federal judge rebuke prosecutors for “flagrant misconduct” and dismiss all charges against rancher Cliven Bundy and two of his sons.
Elizabeth O. White, assistant U.S. attorney for Nevada, assured the court that the appeal would be filed by Feb. 6 after asking for a 14-day extension, saying the “review process is complete and the Solicitor General has authorized the government’s appeal.”
“Undersigned counsel further advises that the draft brief is nearly complete, editing of the completed portions has begun, and she has begun the laborious process of preparing the excerpts of record and updating the record citations in brief to the excerpts of record,” Ms. White said in the motion.
The Justice Department already had requested and received two extensions, but it was unclear until Wednesday whether prosecutors would go forward with the appeal.
Bundy attorney Larry Klayman condemned the decision to file the appeal, which would go before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He accused the government of “circling the wagons” to protect prosecutors, including former Acting U.S. Attorney for Nevada Steven Myhre.
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OJ Appellate Chief and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth White revealed Francisco’s apparent indecision on Wednesday in a request to delay opening briefs in the case, which centers on a 2014 armed standoff between the Bundys and their supporters and the Bureau of Land Management.
“Despite the government’s diligent efforts, the Solicitor General’s review of the matter is not yet complete,” White wrote, pointing to the “massive” record in the case. “His Office, and the Solicitor General himself, are carefully reviewing the issues, the record, and the draft government brief.”
But while Bundy’s battle with BLM over grazing fees appears to be dormant, his fight with federal prosecutors may not be over.
Although Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro barred federal prosecutors from seeking a new trial against Bundy and his sons, the government filed a “protective notice of appeal” in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this summer.
Federal prosecutors are required to file their opening brief in that case by Jan. 2, with a response from Bundy and his sons by Feb. 1.
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The lead prosecutor in the Nevada standoff case against Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a fourth alleged ringleader told a jury in his opening statement last month that the case centered on the need to respect the rule of law.
Five weeks later, it was the prosecution team’s abuse of the rule of law that sunk the case, leading to a judge’s declaration Wednesday of a mistrial.
U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro methodically listed the prosecution’s six separate violations of the Brady law, which requires turning over evidence potentially favorable to the defense. The judge further ruled that each violation was willful.
If ever there was a time when federal prosecutors needed to make sure they acted with complete integrity it was in the high-stakes Bundy case, legal observers say. The defendants already held a deep suspicion of the government and had successfully rallied followers to their cause.
In the ongoing dispute between the state’s two U.S. senators and the Trump administration, the White House counsel accuses the lawmakers of failing to consider the administration’s pick for a judicial vacancy on a federal appellate court.
The White House last week nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds, a young, politically conservative federal prosecutor, for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, want U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez, a Republican, for the vacancy.
Wyden and Merkley have vowed to block Bounds’ nomination, saying that he wasn’t vetted through their bipartisan judicial selection committee.