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United States v. Carpenter

 

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The Wilderness Society and Great Old Broads for Wilderness (collectively Wilderness Society) appealed from the district court’s denial of their motion to intervene as of right on the side of the government in a lawsuit that the United States brought against representatives of a citizens group and Elko County, Nevada. The Ninth Circuit held that Wilderness Society’s motion was timely even though the suit had been pending for eighteen months because Wilderness Society properly relied on the government to represent adequately their interests and acted quickly once they found out that the government had not.

Originally, the United States Forest Service (USFS) sued representatives of the citizens group to enjoin them from trespassing on USFS land. The group was trying to restore a road that ran adjacent to a river, populated by a federally protected fish. Elko County was joined because it claimed rights to the road. The parties participated in a confidential mediation and confidential settlement proceedings before they reached an agreement. Then, the court lifted the confidentiality order. Wilderness Society subsequently moved to intervene because they believed that the United States had agreed improperly not to contest Elko County’s right of way in exchange for continued management by USFS and for observation of environmental laws.

The Ninth Circuit found that, under the confidentiality order, the government did not give notice that it was not properly representing the interests of a group of citizens. To protect confidential negotiations from interventions, the court established that parties could rely on the government to adequately protect their interests until they have notice to the contrary. Therefore, the court held that the motion to intervene was timely and that Wilderness Society was entitled to intervene.

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