The Wicked Witch of the West

Harriet Hageman could be roadless proponents' worst nightmare.

  • Cheyenne lawyer Harriet Hageman.

    Todd Newcomer
 

Sidebar to the Nov. 9 cover story: Roadless-less, by Ray Ring.


Cheyenne lawyer Harriet Hageman likes to dress in black and is proud of the Halloweenish title. She says an environmentalist bestowed it on her years ago in an angry letter to the editor.

Hageman has been the fiercest and most effective opponent of the Clinton roadless forest rule. From 2001 to 2003, she worked for Wyoming's government as an "outside counsel" shaping the state's lawsuit against the roadless rule. It was largely her research and arguments that persuaded Judge Clarence Brimmer to throw out the rule.

Hageman grew up on a ranch and has a University of Wyoming law degree. She also handles cases for ranchers and other traditional Wyoming interests. The way she worked the roadless case is enough to give enviros nightmares about her flying at them on a broom.

This timeline shows the tenacity of Hageman and Judge Brimmer:

May 18, 2001 - Hageman files the state's opening complaint in federal court, charging that the Forest Service broke environmental laws in its rule-making process.

May 22, 2001 - Hageman files a "notification of complexity of case" warning that it's going to be a real bear.

Sept. 4, 2001 - Enviros jump in as interveners on the side of the feds (Earthjustice lawyers representing the Wyoming Outdoor Council, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and the Pacific Rivers Council).

Oct. 1, 2001 - Prodded by Hageman, the feds provide the first hunk of the "administrative record" -- documents from their files related to making the roadless rule. Wyoming charges that the feds are withholding key documents. Judge Clarence Brimmer repeatedly orders the feds to produce more documents; many thousands of pages including internal federal e-mails are eventually dragged in as evidence.

March 4, 2002 - Hageman opens another front by going after the enviros themselves. She charges that certain enviros and Clintonites violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act while making the roadless rule. FACA, passed by Congress in 1972 mandates that "any committee, board, commission, council, conference, panel, task force or other similar group" advising the government must be open to public scrutiny. Wielding that act, Hageman demands that key groups in the roadless campaign cough up their own internal records related to making the roadless rule. She also wants to grill 10 leaders of the enviro groups, as well as key Clintonites, in depositions.
     The enviros call it a "wide-ranging fishing expedition" that would reveal their "strategic communications" and violate their First Amendment right to speak to each other and the Clintonites without fear of reprisals.
     Hageman accuses them of hypocrisy, because at the same time, the Sierra Club is pushing a FACA lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney in a federal court in Washington, D.C. That lawsuit charges that Cheney's official Energy Task Force meetings with energy company executives illegally shaped energy policy in private; it demands that Cheney turn over his records. The enviros say they aren't being hypocritical because their FACA claim against Cheney sought government documents created by official advisory committee, while Hageman's claim seeks those organization’s internal records and they never formed an official advisory committee for making the roadless rule. They ask Judge Brimmer to tell Hageman to back off on her FACA claim. Brimmer refuses. Brimmer says the enviros "were active participants in (Clinton's) rulemaking process" so they have relevant documents.

May 2, 2002 - Backed by Judge Brimmer, Hageman visits the Earthjustice regional office in Denver and sifts through the enviros' files related to the roadless campaign looking for evidence that they illegally conspired with the Clintonites. She pulls out many documents she wants copied. She leaves a handwritten note saying, "I appreciate your hospitality."

July 9, 2002 - The enviros in D.C. make a move against Wyoming's FACA claim, persuading a D.C. federal judge to protect them from the claim and Hageman's demand to grill them in depositions. Judge Brimmer shrugs it off and allows Hageman to continue the FACA claim in his court.

Oct. 12, 2002 - Ken Rait, the head of Heritage Forests Campaign, who lives in Oregon, persuades an Oregon federal judge to quash Wyoming's plan to grill him in a FACA deposition. Judge Brimmer shrugs that off too and still allows Hageman to proceed with the FACA claim in his court.
     According to Roadless Rules: The Struggle for the Last Wild Forests, a book by Tom Turner: "Jim Angell, of Earthjustice's Denver office, has to devote nearly full time for a year and more to contesting (Hageman's) requests for documents, organizing the ones they would agree to turn over, and preparing his clients for their depositions."

Nov. 5, 2002 – Wyoming voters elect a Democrat, Dave Freudenthal, as governor. The enviros see an opportunity.

Nov. 8, 2002 - Largely thanks to Hageman's work, Wyoming files its "Opening Brief" motion on the original front, detailing charges that the Clintonites broke laws in a "mad dash to complete the Roadless Initiative before President Clinton left office."

Dec. 11, 2002 - The enviros make a risky move: They file a Writ of Mandamus asking the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to order Brimmer to order Hageman to back off on the FACA claim. Such pleas to higher courts during ongoing cases tend to irritate the case's judge. The 10th Circuit refuses to order Brimmer to do it.

Jan. 6, 2003 - Freudenthal is sworn into office.

Jan. 15, 2003 - As Hageman is scheduling depositions to grill the enviros in D.C. and Oregon, leaders of the Wyoming Outdoor Council meet with Gov. Freudenthal. They bring up the roadless case and apparently ask the governor to end the contract with Hageman. They follow up with a January 22 letter to then-Attorney General Pat Crank, who was appointed by Freudenthal. The letter, from WOC lawyer Steve Jones, mentions the meeting with Freudenthal and asks Crank to drop the FACA claim and terminate the contract with Hageman. The letter says Wyoming has paid Hageman's firm more than $150,000 so far and it's wasting money. "This is not a terribly complicated case," Jones writes, "and (it) can easily be handled in-house (by the Attorney General's staff)."

Feb. 10, 2003 - During the key hearing in Brimmer's courtroom, Hageman is not allowed to present her oral argument on the original front (a 75-page brief she wrote, with more than 110 exhibits she dug out of the records). Instead, a Wyoming staff attorney makes the oral argument. Around the same time, the Wyoming Attorney General's office drops the FACA claim, abandoning that front.

April 21, 2003 - The Wyoming Attorney General's office formally removes Hageman from the case by filing a motion with Brimmer and assigning the case to a staff lawyer. Attorney General Crank says Gov. Freudenthal didn't tell him to terminate the contract with Hageman. It was just part of Crank's effort to transfer many cases from outside counsels to staff attorneys, Crank says. Hageman says she offered to continue working on the roadless case for free and that she was fired for political reasons.

July 14, 2003 - Judge Brimmer rules for Wyoming on the original front, saying that the feds rigged the process of the roadless rule, violating the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act (Hageman wins this round). Enviros in the Community Rights Counsel group in Washington, D.C. quickly file an ethics complaint with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, charging the Brimmer has a conflict of interest because he owns stocks in oil companies that might want to drill roadless areas. The 10th Circuit dismisses the complaint.

Today Hageman is still challenging the roadless rule. She plans to file an amicus brief representing snowmobilers and four-wheelers in the enviros' appeal of Brimmer's second overturning of the Clinton rule (in 2008), which is being considered by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.



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