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Muscles

Aug 2, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

In appealing the reservation border case, the tribes have hired a top-dollar legal team

In their continuing effort to find a federal court that will declare Riverton to be part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes have taken out the checkbook and hired some big guns.

Not long ago we published a partial roster of the attorneys now working for the tribe as it appeals the 10th Circuit Court decision which, like every other court decision over the decades, has upheld the principle that Riverton is not on the reservation.

Because the 10th Circuit ruled against them some months ago, the tribes now want a larger panel of judges to re-hear the arguments, apparently hoping that perceived political affiliations of the bigger group will overcome facts of the case which have been the basis of law for more than 100 years.

We'll let the lawyers argue the details, but another aspect of the battle is clear enough. The tribes are going to try to overwhelm the opposition with legal firepower.

In his most recent news story covering the appeal argument, Ranger reporter Dan Bendtsen noted the heavy workload and limited resources of the attorneys for the State of Wyoming.

They must argue the case against the tribes' all-star, top-dollar legal lineup. This is not their only case, and they cannot pick and choose which cases to take and the sequence in which they will be argued. They have government-mandated obligations to the state, and they are spread much thinner than the tribal attorneys.

That, of course, is exactly what the high-caliber legal team newly assembled by the tribes is counting on.

There's more than one way to win a court case. The straight facts of the matter, argued effectively by well-matched opponents in court, interpreted fairly and accurately by a judge, and, when necessary, rendered confidently and according to the law by a jury or judge, is one way to do it.

But any one of those individual factors might be seized upon by one side or the other in order to gain advantage. In this case for example, tribes are loading up with lawyers, perhaps hoping that the sheer volume of legal work they can produce which needs a response from the state might begin to overwhelm the opposition.

And by asking for the so-called "en banc" hearing, the tribal attorneys hope that if more judges hear the case, then more may be sympathetic to it. They also hope that the bigger panel, which has more judges appointed by presidents Clinton and Obama, will be more sympathetic.

Does any of these perfectly legal, reasonable and time-tested tactics change the facts of the case? No. But the most recent ruling did include the dissent by one judge who interpreted those facts differently from the other two, and if an onslaught of procedural maneuvers requiring an equal number of procedural responses can bog down the state's legal team, then the two factors - overwhelming legal force against a stressed opponent, and different judges listening - might combine to produce a different result.

No one should be shocked.

The State of Wyoming no doubt has tried the same thing when contesting an issue with an opponent smaller than itself. This is the way the game is played.

Nothing else the tribes have tried has worked. When you are trying to win, you use the best resources you've got.

QUESTION: What is your opinion of the new legal team assembled by the Wind River tribes to appeal the reservation boundary case? Submit a letter to the editor to P.O. Box 993, Riverton, WY, 82501; in person at 421 E. Main in Riverton; or online fremontnews@wyoming.com.

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2017-10-22