By Steven Long, Photo by Laura LeighHOUSTON, (Horseback) – A Reno federal judge listened patiently to five witnesses, including a stumbling government PR spokesman, during a 4.5 hour hearing Tuesday. The hearing was on a motions brought by plaintiff Laura Leigh and her lawyer Gordon Cowan. Leigh is a journalist and photographer who says the BLM has systematically excluded her from observing roundups it terms “gathers” in which horses are stampeded by helicopter over miles of rocky ground in inclement conditions. Often horses die at the end of the chase. Leigh claims the government systematically violates her First Amendment Rights as a journalist to practice her craft while allowing others such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and a Reno newspaper to have close contact with the wild horses she is attempting to observe. Leigh is credentialed to Horseback Magazine.
The hearing was before Judge Larry Hicks, who previously has ruled in favor of the government in the case. Hicks is a former government lawyer.A courtroom observer told Horseback that the government came to the hearing believing they were merely arguing a motion, not bringing witnesses of their own. They were not prepared to cross examine witnesses brought to the hearing by Cowan and Leigh. Those witnesses put a wealth of information into the court record which government lawyers couldn’t refute.
Hicks gave the lawyers 15 days to prepare more briefs.
If Hicks rules against the plaintiff the case may go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.