January 29, 2008
First round to the government in border access lawsuits

No surprise here.

A federal judge ordered 10 Cameron County property owners to open their land to the government for border fence surveying, but not before he denied the government the right to take the land without a hearing.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville ordered 10 of the 12 landowners to comply with the government's request for access to their land for 180 days. The other two were near settlements with the government.

But Hanen's order revealed he had denied a request from the federal government for a swift and private order like the one it received in a similar case in Eagle Pass. In filing its suit, the Justice Department asked Hanen to rule immediately without participation from the landowners, a legal maneuver that is allowed in eminent domain cases.

Hanen denied that request and ordered the government to inform all property owners of the hearing, held last Friday.

"This court will make itself available if needed for the resolution of any disputes, but it expects all parties to act cooperatively and with due concern for the rights and needs of the other parties in the implementation of this order," Hanen wrote in the order dated Friday and released Monday.

By contrast, U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum received the government's lawsuit against the city of Eagle Pass and issued an order before the city could respond.

Hanen, like Ludlum a Bush appointee, questioned the government's efforts at contacting landowners and heard from some property owners and their attorneys at Friday's hearing.


Hanen also ordered government contractors to work with landowners to make the intrusion as minimal as possible.

Hanen denied the government's request to access properties adjacent to those included in the order.

Well, at least this judge is giving the landowners a chance to speak first. We'll see what happens when the disputes move on to the next phase. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 29, 2008 to National news