On May 1, 2014, David Young, Counsel for Public Lands For The People and other plaintiffs, appeared before Judge Gilbert G. Ochoa in Rancho Cucamonga to argue our Motions for Summary Judgments, and oppose the State’s cross-motions for Summary Judgments. These Motions regarded the issue of Federal preemption of the State’s prohibition of suction dredge mining in California. Judge Ochoa was knowledgeable about the pleadings that had been filed, the arguments made, and asked challenging questions regarding the State’s position that there was only a temporary moratorium, and not a prohibition of suction dredge mining in California. The State could give no assurance to Judge Ochoa as to a date when the so called “moratorium” would end. At the end of all arguments, Judge Ochoa took the matters under advisement, making no ruling from the bench.
Judge Ochoa then asked all counsel to meet with him in chambers. He stated that he would like to see the matter settled, if at all possible, before he ruled on the various motions. We discussed the previous settlement attempts with judge Ochoa which were not successful. Nevertheless, Judge Ochoa exercised his judicial authority to order a Mandatory Settlement Conference (“MSC”) beginning June 24, 2014, which may continue for one or two more days. Judge Ochoa will personally preside at the MSC as the settlement Judge, and is prepared to make a substantial personal commitment of time and effort to see if any settlement can be achieved. Judge Ochoa will require all parties to the litigation to be either personally present in Court for the MSC, or to be available by telephone. Those parties who cannot attend personally, should be able to attend by telephone conference at no cost to them. Judge Ochoa has the authority to sanction any party who does not attend the MSC either in person, or by telephone.
When available, a copy of Judge Ochoa’s written Order regarding the MSC, and the mandatory attendance of all parties will be provided. Under any circumstances, Jerry Hobbs and David Young will be attending the MSC in person, and all other parties to the litigation are urged to attend in person. Judge Ochoa further stated that he would want to personally address the parties. The parties would have an opportunity, either through counsel, or personally to address Judge Ochoa. Since Judge Ochoa has yet to rule on the Motions now pending before him, the MSC should give everyone a more complete education on the realities of what it takes to actually engage in suction dredge mining in California, and the impact that the State’s prohibition has had on suction dredge miners.