Judge Backs Off Pershing Roadblock: Deal is Done

Judge Jones in Reno, who said the settlement deal cut between Burning Man and Pershing County was “illegal, unenforceable and absurd“, and suggested the lawyers involved should go back to school – has issued a new ruling on the case. Once again, he’s accused both sides of collusion, fraud, breaking the law, and abuse of process. The judge also acknowledged that he lacks the jurisdiction to void the contract – maybe it was him who went back to law school? However, he is still trying to get the nudity in front of children shut down:

He ordered the federal case closed but not before he again accused both sides of collusion, fraud and an abuse of process, and repeated his concerns about exposing children to public nudity

judge_turn_off_cell_phone_240245The judge said that the settlement was illegal – but he passed it into law anyway.

In a typical display of BMOrg humility, Burning Man’s lawyers told the media “the judge’s ruling has no legal effect” (wow!)

Here’s the full story, from Associated Press

RENO (AP) — A federal judge who refused to affirm a settlement agreement between a Nevada county and Burning Man organizers because he says it is “illegal, unenforceable and absurd” has issued a new ruling declaring the county the winner in a First Amendment fight that both sides insist was over long ago.

Lawyers for Burning Man’s Black Rock City LLC and Pershing County say they settled their differences in October over a proposed ordinance governing the counterculture festival and had been asking U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones since then to give their agreement his blessing.

Both sides said late Friday they believe the deal intended to head off a legal showdown over constitutional limits on obscenity remains intact without Jones’ endorsement. Burning Man’s lawyers consider the judge’s latest ruling to be moot, while the county continues to review any potential legal ramifications.

Jones, who dressed down both sides’ lawyers and accused them of fraud before refusing their most recent request in his Reno courtroom Nov. 29, acknowledged in the new written order earlier this week he lacks jurisdiction to void the contract.

He ordered the federal case closed but not before he again accused both sides of collusion, fraud and an abuse of process, and repeated his concerns about exposing children to public nudity at the festival in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles north of Reno.

young drunk stupid judgeIn an unorthodox move, he also granted a motion the county had filed July 31 seeking approval of its right to enact an ordinance banning children from attending the event. And he renewed his sharp criticism of the county’s legal team’s willingness to negotiate a deal that he says ensures no such ban will take place under a new 10-year-law enforcement agreement.

The annual weeklong celebration of self-expression and eclectic art leading up to Labor Day draws 60,000 free spirits to the desert playa, where costumed characters perform guerrilla theater and dancers spin — sometimes sans clothes.

Black Rock City filed suit in 2012 arguing the county’s proposed ordinance would be unconstitutional if it banned children, or prohibited “obscene, indecent, vulgar or lewd exhibitions” protected under the First Amendment as free speech.

Jones said in his ruling on Monday the county should have stuck to his guns because he would have upheld their right to pursue such rules.

“BRC, in collusion with the county’s counsel, filed and prosecuted this contrived, pre-textual lawsuit in order to obtain its new and illegal agreement with Pershing County, and in doing so, committed a fraud on this court, Pershing County and the Nevada Legislature,” Jones wrote.

County counsel mimicked BRC’s charade, encouraging its client to settle on such obviously unfavorable and illegal terms,” he said. “It raises serious questions regarding the county’s decision to settle.”

Jones said the agreement implies the county cannot prevent minors from attending the event “even when state and local laws concerning child endangerment, child delinquency or child trafficking are implicated.”

Such a contract is obviously illegal and no court would enforce it,” he said.

Jones said he recognizes he lacks jurisdiction to void the contract but that he does have jurisdiction “to declare an abuse of process and the commission of fraud upon the court in the filing and prosecution of this federal action.” He also said the county could revive the case in state court.

Annette Hurst, a San Francisco lawyer for Burning Man, said Jones’ order has “no legal effect” and the contract “remains valid, binding and in full effect.”

“BRC has every intention of performing in accordance with its terms,” she said in an email to AP on Friday.

Pershing County District Attorney Jim Shirley said he has not taken an official position on the effect the order has on the agreement, but believes Hurst is correct.

“At present time, there is an agreement in place and the parties intend to comply with the agreement,” he said.

The “moral” of this story? Money trumps the judicial process, in Northern Nevada.

Now that the deal’s been done, Pershing County gets paid $$$ per Burner, and traffic concerns have supposedly  been addressed…don’t be surprised if we end up with a larger population cap this year.

18 comments on “Judge Backs Off Pershing Roadblock: Deal is Done

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  12. A quote from Wikipedia about this ex-missonary Mormon, Bush appointed, federal judge: the appeals court that threw out one of Jones’ ideology driven decisions said “Such arrogance and assumption of power by one individual is not acceptable in our judicial system.” Seems Judge Jones is pushing his own agenda again.

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    • Burning Man wins, and Pershing wins – they got the fee hike they were asking for, which is what triggered BMorg to sue in the first place. The extra money is nothing to Burning Man, it will easily be covered by the new $1.4 million vehicle tax, with change to spare. Burners lose, because we have to pay, and it’s us who copped the brunt of this years heaviest ever police presence, with sniffer dogs brought in from the border etc. Pershing made their point, and BM caved – after they saw what Pershing could do to harass their event. Who lost? Only Burners, as far as I can tell. I bet the judge takes out his petty gripes on any Burners called into his court for sentencing as a result of the cops and dogs.

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      • I don’t see how Burners Lost. If it costs me an Extra $40 bucks to grease the skids so Pershing County gets off our backs, its money well spent IMO.

        I know a lot of your posts are about the ORG, and the money aspect to this event. But what I don’t think you realize is that for the vast majority of Burners, they really don’t care, they really don’t. If they have to pay another $40 bucks, or $100 bucks, to pay for political machinations so the event can continue, then its a small price to pay for what they get in return.

        We’re not living in BRC 52 weeks a year, this isn’t a “Damnit, they raised my monthly parking at work!” situation. Going to BRC is an optional, already very expensive “vacation” (working vacation in my case) for most people.

        I mean think about it, what we’re doing is BATSHINE INSANE. We’re spending our precious vacation days, and a lot of money, sweat, and blood, to go hang out in a friggin dry lake bed for 1-2 weeks. its nuts, but we love it so we do it. In fact we love it so much, that the minor financial “roadblocks” like increased ticket prices or new fee’s are nothing but a mere gnat on the highway to the playa.

        Sure, there’s a limit, You make tickets $1,000 bucks, and you’ll start to hear a lot of grumbling, But if most Burners are like me, the $40 bucks pales in comparison to all the other expenses in coming to the event.

        In fact, my beef with the new fee isn’t the $40 bucks, its the way they are handling it in yet another FUBAR manner by having them limited, I agree with your earlier post that by the time regular tickets go on sale, there will be very few, if any, left. and ya, they’ll probably just print more.

        But as for the extra money, or whether or not the ORG is making extra bucks here, or there, or selling calendars, or whatever the hell, I’m guessing most Burners are like me in that they really don’t care. Whatever it takes to be able to spend 8-9 days in Awesome-Land, then so be it.

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      • I’m actually with you Porter: as I’ve said many times here, I have no problems with the founders making money from this party, they deserve to. The extra $40 is no biggie, they just could’ve put ticket prices up to $400. We live in a capitalist society, and supply and demand should set the ticket prices.

        The thing I have a problem with is the lies and doublespeak, the constantly tweaking their ticketing system in ways that make it seem like their customers are the last thing they think about – and if they do consider it, it’s just “how can we trick them into giving us more money and feeling good about it”.

        This would be unacceptable in any business, but is doubly so in this one where they are crowdsourcing the art, music, and other contents of the party to the customers. Why do they have to treat us like shit? Why do they have to try to trick us all the time? Why do they have to kick out the people who’ve been going for 2-3 decades, to replace them with virgins? Why do they have to arrogantly mouth off to the media about this Judge, who is still there in the courtroom, hearing Burning Man-related cases? Is there something sinister going on here, behind the scenes…the “social engineering” that Larry says they’re all about? Or do they just *hate* Burners, because we create so many problems for them?

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  13. Personally, if a kid came up to me at BM trying to gift me something, I’d be looking around for LEOs hiding in the shrubbery – or maybe spying on me from a satellite.

    How many vehicle passes are kids allowed to buy?

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  14. OK, the previously confusing drama is finally clear: Judge Jones is just an old fart who does not want kids in BRC. Of course if they did exclude kids, it would considerably complicate LE’s serving-minors entrapment moneymaker. So, the BOrg gets to sell tickets to kids, and the County gets to collect fines for serving minors. Everybody is happy!

    I prefer the over-21 alternative stone soup events anyway.

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