Lawsuit to keep Rainbow court open gets re-filed

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— Denver civil rights attorney David Lane re-filed a complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver that seeks to stop the makeshift federal court proceedings set up for the Rainbow Gathering.

The complaint, filed on behalf of Steamboat Springs attorney Adam Mayo, calls for relief and a temporary restraining order to stop the trials. The complaint alleges that the court proceedings violate a constitutional right to access free, public trials.

Mayo said he sought Lane's counsel after being denied access last week to the first day of court proceedings in the improvised courtroom set up in a North Routt County fire station, where hundreds of Rainbow participants were summonsed to hearings related to citations for illegal occupation of national forest land and other alleged offenses.

Such hearings are scheduled to resume today and continue through Sunday at the fire station in Hahn's Peak Village.

Mayo said he attempted to enter the hearings last Friday but was denied access by law enforcement officers in the fire station's parking lot. Mayo said he was in North Routt to represent several gatherers who had contacted him earlier in the week.

A closed court proceeding violates the constitutional rights of the defendants and the general public, Mayo said.

"I need to see what's going on to advise my clients," he said. "They deserve and have a right to a public trial. It's not just the defendant's right, but it's also the public's right to watch and make sure justice is being served... These are the liberties we're fighting for and that people are giving their lives to protect."

Jeff Dorschner of the U.S. Attorney's Office, the chief prosecutor in the hearings, said that the temporary courtroom location was selected to accommodate the remote nature of the gathering site and was indeed open to the public.

Speaking on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's office and Assistant U.S. Attorney Wyatt Angelo,

"Why (Mayo) was refused at the gate, I have no information," Dorschner said. "As far as the facility goes, there's appropriate space for security personnel and courtroom participants; otherwise, there's only limited seating for the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.

"Some community and media members have been allowed access and we are reviewing other alternatives for interested parties to follow the proceedings without compromising the safety and security of the judge, defendants and other courtroom participants."

Lane originally filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, but U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger dismissed it for technical legal reasons. Resubmitting the complaint on Thursday, Lane said he hopes the complaint will result in future proceedings taking place in an adequately sized courtroom that will provide the pubic an opportunity to witness the hearings.

Federal Magistrate David West is overseeing the court proceedings, which are specifically to address Rainbow Gathering-related offenses.

Cited at the Rainbow Gathering area 35 miles north of Steamboat Springs in Routt National Forest, 232 individuals were summoned to appear at 9 a.m. for last Friday's hearings at the North Routt Fire Protection District Station No. 2. By 10 p.m., Dorschner said that only about 90 cases had been addressed and because of safety and time considerations, many of the remaining citations were dismissed.

"I waited for five hours in the hot sun for my clients' names to be called, and not one of them was called," Mayo said.

Forest service spokesperson Denise Ottaviano said she had no information on the situation and that the federal court's jurisdiction was not a forest service matter.

-- To reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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