May 5, 2010

Court hears oral argument in Leu v. IBC

By Court hears oral argument in Leu v. IBC

Author: Daniel Himebaugh

The Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in Leu v. International Boundary Commission this morning in Seattle.  PLF and the Leus are now awaiting the court's decision.

In 2007, PLF attorneys agreed to represent Herbert and Shirley Leu, who live in the town of Blaine, Washington, right next to the U.S.-Canada border.  Shortly after moving in to their home, the Leus began constructing a retaining wall in their backyard.  The wall, which is located entirely on the Leus' property, also happens to be close to the borderline.  While they were building the wall, the Leus received notice from a little known federal agency, the IBC, telling them that the wall intruded on a "boundary vista," and must be torn down.

The Leus filed a federal lawsuit against the IBC challenging that agency's authority to force them to remove their wall.  But before the initial stages of the litigation could be completed, the American boundary commissioner hired alternate defense counsel, contrary to the Department of Justice, which had already undertaken representation in the case.  In the summer of 2007, the president fired the commissioner (Dennis Schornack), and appointed an acting commissioner, who directed the private defense team to cease representation of the IBC.

Mr. Schornack, refusing to recognize his firing, continued to file motions in the Leus' case, which prompted the district court to halt the proceedings and issue an order declaring that Mr. Schornack had been effectively terminated from his office and was no longer a party.  This is the order that Mr. Schornack appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

The good news for the Leus is that they successfully protected their wall, and their private property rights, by entering into a settlement that provides that the wall may remain.  This is a victory for the Leus and PLF, who now await the Ninth Circuit's opinion regarding the termination of the former boundary commissioner.

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