On August 28, 2013, Judge Gilbert G. Ochoa, of the San Bernardino County Superior Court, denied PLP’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction on the grounds there was no proof of irreparable harm caused to miners by California’s ban on suction dredge mining. Judge Ochoa appeared to take the position that whatever harm occurred to the miners could eventually be made good by the payment of money damages. Among numerous matters, PLP, in its Motion papers, and at oral argument, vigorously asserted that the fact that the miners face criminal prosecution if they violate an unconstitutional statute, was in and of itself irreparable harm. A criminal record attaching to a miner’s good name is not something that can be made whole by the payment of money damages.
One of the cases that PLP brought to Judge Ochoa’s attention was the criminal conviction of Brandon Rhinehart for suction dredge mining in violation of California’s prohibition on such mining. PLP help retain an attorney for Mr. Rhinehart in defense of his prosecution for violating the ban on suction dredge mining. The conviction of Mr. Rhinehart has been appealed, and PLP has been informed that the California Court of Appeal has accepted Mr. Rhinehart’s case for review.
In addition, PLP’s attorney is appealing to the Court of Appeal Judge Ochoa’s denial of a Preliminary Injunction staying the ban on suction dredge mining. The Rhinehart case will figure as an example of irreparable harm caused to miners should they violate California’s unconstitutional prohibition on suction dredge mining. Both appeals will raise issues not only of irreparable harm, but also of Federal preemption allowing suction dredge mining, making the California prohibition on suction dredge mining unconstitutional.
PLP has previously been successful in the Court of Appeal in having that Court overturn the decision of a Superior Court Judge who prohibited issuing of permits for suction dredge mining, prior to the California statute banning such mining that is now in intensive litigation.
PLP’s appeal, as well as the Rhinehart appeal, does give miners hope for light at the end of the tunnel, and could well bring suction dredge mining back to California before the next dredging season. PLP would like to thank all of the folks who have supported us in the past, and thank those who will continue their support in the future. PLP is fighting for you!
President, Public Lands for the People, Inc.