WHOA supporters get concept of “due process” wrong

Supporters of the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) are talking on their Facebook page about the Bureau of Land Management’s planned and attempted horse gathers on the large BLM tract adjacent to Placitas commonly known as the Buffalo Tract. They say their right to “due process” is being violated by this activity because WHOA is “still in court.” Presumably, this refers to the fact that WHOA has petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear its lawsuit against the BLM (which they lost in federal district court, appealed, and lost again*) and is awaiting word of the petition’s fate.

BLM’s activities related to management of feral horses on Placitas-area BLM lands fall within the agency’s purview under current laws, so it’s perfectly entitled to carry on with its usual work. At any given time there are lawsuits in progress across the country that challenge particular laws or their application in specific circumstances. The ability and right to file such a lawsuit and have the courts hear one’s argument is, in fact, an example of due process. But the existing laws and regulations don’t cease to be operational while the argument is being heard in the courts, a process that may take months to years. That would pretty much ensure a constant state of chaos everywhere and no public agency would know from one day to the next what laws and statutes it was operating under.

WHOA has filed a number of lawsuits and appeals, all of which have accorded WHOA due process under the law. By incorrectly claiming their right to due process is being violated, it seems WHOA supporters have a basic misunderstanding of how our country’s laws and legal system work.

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*In 2011, WHOA filed a lawsuit against the BLM in US District Court claiming the Placitas free-roaming horses are “wild” and must be treated and protected as such by BLM. The District Court ruled against WHOA. WHOA then appealed to the US Court of Appeals (Tenth Circuit), which upheld the lower court’s ruling. WHOA has now petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear the case. The Supreme Court receives about 10,000 such petitions each year and grants a hearing to about 75.