Sunday, February 5, 2012

Motion to Dismiss Filed in Kortlander Case - US Court of Federal Claims Issues Show Cause Order for Party's Failure to Appear

Little Bighorn River.  Courtesy NPS.
Federal lawyers recently filed a motion to dismiss Christopher Kortlander's multimillion dollar claim against the government, while Kortlander's attorney reportedly failed to appear for a January 26 court status conference.  The United States Court of Federal Claims therefore issued an order for a show cause hearing, stating: "The court reached defendant’s counsel and agency counsel, but was unable to reach plaintiffs' counsel at the appointed time, although the court attempted to reach plaintiffs' counsel twice. Therefore, on or before Monday, February 13, 2012, plaintiffs' counsel, in writing, in the electronic filing system, shall show cause why this case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute and comply with the rules of this court ...."

Kortlander, owner of the Custer Battlefield Museum in Montana, was once under federal investigation after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) received complaints that he was selling artifacts on eBay that were claimed to have been recovered from the Little Big Horn battlefield.  The battlefield is a protected national memorial dedicated to the U.S. Army's 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne.  It is the site of George Custer's famous "last stand."  The investigation of Kortlander led to the execution of search warrants by authorities in 2005 and 2008. But the prosecution in 2009 declined to prosecute.

Since then Kortlander has engaged in litigation, including filing an action against the government in the court of federal claims on September 19, 2011 for $188,500,000 in damages.  That action was filed days after a federal district court in Montana dismissed Kortlander's lawsuit against a BLM agent.

Attorneys for the United States filed a motion to dismiss Kortlander's tort, criminal, and constitutional law claims on January 17, 2012.  They contend in their pleading that Kortlander's case lacks jurisdiction, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, fails to meet the statute of limitations, and fails to meet certain pleading standards.  Some of the arguments the government puts forward in the motion are the following (legal citations in the original have been omitted):

"Plaintiff [Kortlander] appears to allege that Federal agents violated his Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.... He also alleges throughout his complaint that the search warrants justifying the 2005 and 2008 searches of his property in Garryowen [Montana] were not supported by probable cause.... However, the law is well established in the Court of Federal Claims that the 'Fourth Amendment provides no right to money damages for its breach.'"

"The Court also lacks jurisdiction over plaintiff's allegations that Federal agents violated his Fifth Amendment due process rights, because the Due Process Clause is not a 'money-mandating provision.'"

"The tort claims of slander and defamation fall outside the jurisdiction of the Court."

"Any effort by plaintiff [Kortlander] to allege a claim of tortious interference with business relationships by the Federal agents does not fall within the Court’s jurisdiction, for the same reasons."

"Further, any efforts by plaintiff to allege tortious invasion of privacy, or tortious harassment and intimidation by another person, fall outside the Court’s jurisdiction."

"Mr. Kortlander has failed to state any claims upon which relief may be granted. The majority of his claims are barred by the six-year statute of limitations."