At the consolidated court hearings held in San Bernardino County in California on May 1, Judge Gilbert Ochoa heard arguments from attorneys David Young and James Buchal on behalf of the miners. He had already received all the supporting documents and arguments from each of the involved parties. One of the key questions Judge Ochoa asked of attorneys representing the State of California was if they could provide a date when the current moratorium will end. The answer was, "No, Your Honor."
Approximately 120 miners were present to lend their support. Judge Ochoa initially announced he would issue his ruling in about two weeks. However, after most of the miners left the court, the judge called the litigants into his chambers. In a closed-door meeting he ordered the involved parties to participate in mandatory settlement hearings, which he scheduled for June 24, 2014. The judge also set aside two additional days -- June 25 & 26 -- if needed.
Let me explain why this is good news. Mining law and case law are in favor of the miners. We've always known this, we just needed a judge with the guts to stand up to the State of California and their environmental cronies. There is plenty of case law which dictates that the State of California can regulate mining but cannot prohibit it. The current moratorium is, in fact, a prohibition.
If Judge Ochoa was going to rule against the miners he would have left the "about two weeks" schedule in place, or he would have made his ruling on May 1. By ordering mandatory settlement hearings he is providing the State of California with the opportunity to try to at least gain some concessions from suction dredge miners.
All the plaintiffs are required to participate in the settlement hearings and must negotiate in good faith. If no agreement can be reached, then Judge Ochoa would have to rule on the merits of the case.
We have confidence in PLP (Public Lands for the People) and the attorneys representing the miners. They have been down this road before. It's been nine years since the latest round of court battles began and five years since we've been able to dredge legally in California. We should be back in the water soon.
news source: ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal