Real Estate & Property Law

SCOTUS case puts focus on property-rights group


A Supreme Court case scheduled for oral argument this month is likely to raise the profile of the Colorado-based group that will argue for a property owner’s rights, the Mountain States Legal Foundation.

Mountain States represents Wyoming resident Marvin Brandt, who contends the federal government did not have a right to build a bicycle trail on an abandoned railway that runs through his property. E&E profiles the group and its president, William Perry Pendley.

“For golly sake,” Pendley told E&E. “It’s Marvin Brandt versus the United States government. …That’s a huge deal.” The case will be argued by the foundation’s chief legal officer, Steven Lechner.

Pendley, 68, is a former Marine who sports cowboy boots with his suits and displays “Friend of Coal” and “Keep Calm, Frac On” stickers on his Mercedes SUV’s rear window, the story says. He became president of the group in 1989 after a stint in the Regan administration’s Interior Department as deputy assistant secretary for energy and minerals.

After taking over, Pendley shifted the group’s focus from commenting on federal resource management plans to litigation. Pendley told E&E he was looking for “real clients, real cases, real controversy.” In 1995, Pendley successfully argued a case before the Supreme Court that challenged federal financial incentives that encouraged government contractors to hire subcontractors owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

Though the foundation has grown since Pendley took over, it still raises less money than the Pacific Legal Foundation, which has also been involved in property rights litigation. Mountain States raised $2.8 million in 2012, while the Pacific Legal Foundation raised $8.7 million.

Hat tip to SCOTUSblog; its case page on Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States is here.

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