“Absurd, Illegal, Mealy-Mouthed”: More on Judge’s Ruling on Burning Man/Pershing Dispute

My earlier post was hastily sent out from my iPhone, please forgive an initial spelling mistake, I hope you somehow managed to survive your day anyway.

Sounds like sparks were flying in the Sparks courtroom! The Judge seems like he’s part of the crew who thinks either the naked people or the children have to go from Burning Man. Here’s a bit more detail on what happened, from the Associated Press:

robertjonesRENO — Organizers of the annual weeklong celebration of self-expression and eclectic art known as Burning Man and a Nevada county where it is held thought they had resolved their legal dispute over the festival.

And they hoped to get the blessing of a federal judge overseeing the case, asking him to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this week.

Instead, they got an earful from U.S. District Senior Chief Judge Robert C. Jones, and threats that the lawyers in the case should either go back to law school or be disbarred.

Exactly what in the agreement between festival organizers and Pershing County lawyers prompted Jones’ criticism was unclear, though he said the agreement amounted to malpractice.

You committed virtually a fraud on the federal court and the county commission,” Jones said. He said he’ll file complaints with the state bar association against all lawyers involved.

The two sides, however, believe they still have an agreement in their year-old legal battle over regulation of the annual event leading up to Labor Day in the Black Rock Desert, about 100 miles north of Reno.

scarvesDrawing 60,000 free spirits, it features costumed characters performing guerrilla theater and dancers in nothing but sheer scarves or less. The festival culminates with the burning of a 100-foot-tall wooden effigy. Over the years, so-called Burners claimed authorities were increasingly going [hard] on drug busts.

The county has long sought more money to provide security. When organizers balked, the county proposed an ordinance to enable sheriff’s deputies to regulate activities it considered “obscene.” One version of the ordinance also would have banned children from attending.

Festival organizers said such a law would violate their First Amendment rights, and sued in federal court. As the case sat before Jones, both sides began negotiating.

The agreement calls for the Burners to pay an estimated $240,000 annually for law enforcement and for meetings between festival organizers and officials to discuss police priorities before and after the event. The county agreed not to pursue the ordinance, or regulate anything that was covered by the festival’s permit from the Bureau of Land Management.

“It’s absurd and it’s illegal,” said Jones, though it wasn’t clear what would be illegal about the agreement. Jones said under the agreement the county was waiving its right to enforce state laws, including its ability to keep children from being exposed to people “running around nude on the desert.”

monkey wheelYou give them virtually a veto authority over what the sheriff is doing,” he said.

Both sides said Jones misunderstood.

“We didn’t give up any right to enforce any law,” insisted Brent Kolvet, a lawyer for the county.

“We concur,” said Annette Hurst, a lawyer for Burning Man’s owner, Black Rock City LLC.

Jones shot back, “I’m sure you do.”

Later, the judge said Kolvet was insulting his intelligence and described one of Hurst’s arguments as “mealy-mouthed.” Twice while mocking their positions, he said, “The record will reflect I’m laughing.”

He refused Hurst’s first request to speak.

“No. Just take careful notes,” Jones said.

Later, she asked again.

“I’m going to suggest, ma’am, you go back to law school,” he said. “Sit down.”

When Hurst said she was trying to complete a sentence, Jones told his clerk: “Call security.”

For the last time, sit down,” he said.

Hurst sat and a U.S. marshal arrived seconds later but the hearing continued.

Jones refused to approve the deal and said a formal written ruling would follow.

With the county and Burning Man organizers saying they considered their dispute resolved, it wasn’t clear what impact his ruling would have on the agreement.

The Judge’s views have triggered a few choice comments on the Interwebz:

  • I practiced law, although not in Nevada, for 25 years. Frankly, I’d never seen court judges say crazy, nasty stuff to lawyers until I sat through a morning calendar at the Clark County Family Court’s Department P..

    And now this Federal judge appears to be very angry about something which he apparently did not articulate well enough for the reporter, let alone both sides’ attorneys to understand.

    Is someone putting crazy juice in Nevada judges’ water dispensers?

  • The judge is bluffing. He did not delineate the specifics of the alleged fraud. It’s contract law and if both parties agree to a contract, how could fraud be implied here? He is simply grandstanding for his base – bravo!
  • This is an evil, evil dude. A real nutcracker, right out of the 1850s:  “In November 2012, Judge Jones upheld Nevada’s ban on same sex marriage. The civil rights organization which brought the case, Lambda Legal, appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2012. Jones wrote in the decision: 

‘Human beings are created through the conjugation of one man and one woman. The percentage of human beings conceived through non-traditional methods is minuscule and adoption, the form of child-rearing in which same-sex couples may typically participate together, is not an alternative means of creating children, but rather a social backstop for when traditional biological families fail. The perpetuation of the human race depends upon traditional procreation between men and women. The institution developed in our society, its predecessor societies, and by nearly all societies on Earth throughout history to solidify, standardize, and legalize the relationship between a man, a woman, and their offspring, is civil marriage between one man and one woman.'” 
http://judgepedia.org/Robert_C._Jones

  • This clown is a Mormon wacko. Judge Jones should have been impeached long ago, and this latest outburst of idiocy might be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back. 

Read all about him: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Clive_Jones

26 comments on ““Absurd, Illegal, Mealy-Mouthed”: More on Judge’s Ruling on Burning Man/Pershing Dispute

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  8. Given this judge’s obvious hillbilly-esque political proclivities, its clearly in his nature to be an obstructionist to a festival of such liberal bent. Bellicose intimidation tactics covering for a backroom hand off of cash perhaps?

  9. Quite simply put; religion and state, according to our constitution and for very good reason, should be kept separate. As far as I’m concerned then, those who cannot keep separate their duties as a public servant and their religious beliefs are not fit to serve as public servants of any form. You can argue that those are simply his views, or not. Regardless, they should not come into play when making legal decisions. It is his duty as a judge to remain unbiased and base his decisions solely on constitutional law. Just as it is any judge’s duty not to uphold any law which is unconstitutional, and we all know just how many actually do that…

    • I agree with your point, but as ABP pointed out in other comments it may be the particular clause singling out judge Wagner as the procedural matter he was pissed about…the young cowboys trying to “route around” the good ‘old boys through legal shenanigans ….

      • Thanks, burnersxxx. I have a knack that Judge Jones is livid about both. The “mealy-mouthed” and threats to report the lawyers to the Nevada Bar may come from the agreement’s comments about Judge Wagner.

        Judge Jones is a Mormon in good standing with his church. He may too be bloody livid with the thought that people could bring their offspring to the playa where very non-Mormon stuff happens. Such as premarital sex and not dressing in a conservative fashion. His beliefs are as BYU, where it is mandatory expulsion for bonking before marriage. No cleavage is to be shown, nor a guy’s bare chest. Then, on the playa, a kid can see a naked person? If I were a conservative Mormon, who believed what I was taught every week, I, too, would be bloody livid.

        Everything he can blow up in the agreement, he’s going to blow up with glee. What is a lawyer’s say of what he can blow up, and what can be an agreement between two parties without a court being in the loop? Might he blow up all language about Judge Wagner. and all issues to go through Wagner? The agreement only binds the two parties and none others? Cops can continue to do whatever they want, the law be damned?

    • Judge Jones is the Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, not, as the blog entry states, a United States Senior Judge. He was appointed as a judge by President Bush, with the Senate confirming him unanimously. He later rose to Chief Judge for the District of Nevada, He may have firmly held beliefs, but he is not a wacko. He cannot be removed short of impeachment proceedings, which I understand is rarely used in the US.

  10. Thank you, Lysenko, for your comments from the lawyerly perspective.

    It seems that Judge Jones, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, a former Mormon Bishop, is aligned with Judge Richard Wagner, the State of Nevada 6th District judge for Pershing county, also a Mormon. It seems that both have a bug up their arse about children at BRC, maybe due to their religion’s teachings.

    Judge Jones’ comments of “mealy-mouthed” and “He’ll file complaints with the state bar association against all lawyers involved” may refer to, or may be in retaliation for, the agreement paragraph 5.3 ” … This release does not extent to Judge Richard Wagner, and shall not be construed to bar any ethics or disciplinary complaints or other actions that BRC may choose to pursue against Wagner” as well as the language in the agreement that the no further proceedings shall be adjudicated by Judge Wagner. The agreement lists biased actions taken by Judge Richard Wagner which resulted in the inclusion of the language in the agreement.

    Agreement – http://www.brcvpc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2013-09-18-BRC-Pershing-Settlement-Agreement-Executed.pdf

    I’m certain that Judge Jones will find ways to hold up the agreement, necessitating an appeal to the US 9th Circuit Court, as Lysenko commented. As with the cops and the random searches at BRC, he doesn’t need to have the law on his side, if he can get away with it.

  11. A Mormon judge. This guy believes his prophet speaks directly to God and then tells him how to judge cases. So, yeah. Let’s talk about having licenses revoked.

  12. I wasn’t there, but the judge, while portrayed as extremely stern, may be right, as state law trumps local law, PERIOD. Any lawyer who has passed the bar knows this.

    • Every county has the right to choose which state laws to enforce. This agreement is not exactly local law (it’s a contract that only binds two entities) and it does not bind other agencies that enforce state laws in Nevada, including the state police, sheriff’s departments from other counties, and whatever municipal police might find their way to the playa.

      This judge just has a bug up his ass. Someone’s already outlining the 9th Circuit petition.

    • Any lawyer who has actually practiced law would argue that the law is gray and there’s never absolute certainty in any case, PERIOD.

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