[Congressional Record Volume 150, Number 93 (Thursday, July 8, 2004)]
[Senate]
[Pages S7778-S7779]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                             VENUE SHOPPING

  Mr. THOMAS. Madam President, I appreciate the comments of the Senator 
from Utah. Certainly, the impact of the economy on all these things is 
a little hard to determine and easy to make political. I hope we can 
understand and stick with some of the economic elements that are there 
and then deal with the political ones that go with it.
  First, let me say I am a little disappointed in the way we are moving 
in the Senate, frankly. We don't have many days left to deal with a 
number of issues. Frankly, I think we have about four or five issues 
that we ought to be dealing with. One, of course, is the difficult one 
called the budget.
  Some people out there say: Why do you fool with it? You don't pay any 
attention to it anyway.
  That is not true. It is a way to protect spending within the limits 
of the budget. If you don't have one, that makes it difficult.
  Appropriations, of course, must be done by the end of September in 
order to continue to deal with the things we must do.
  I believe our energy policy, where we are going in the future, ought 
to be laid out. That is one of the most important issues we have before 
us.
  And as the Democratic leader said this morning, the highway bill has 
the most direct impact on the creation of jobs of anything we could do, 
and we have completed all the efforts on that for some time.
  I am certainly hoping that we can move forward. Unfortunately, we 
have been held up by this idea of having unrelated amendments to every 
bill. We ought to fix that issue. When we are on an issue, we ought to 
stick with that issue and have only amendments that are pertinent. But 
that is not the case, of course. We use every bill as an opportunity to 
bring up something totally unrelated, and that has been a problem.
  In any event, I will discuss a little while this morning something 
that is related to what we are talking about on the Senate floor. It 
isn't part of the bill, nor do I expect to put it in as an amendment, 
but I think it is something that is quite important to the legal 
system, particularly as it affects decisions vis-a-vis public lands. Of 
course, being from Wyoming--the Presiding Officer being from Alaska--a 
large percentage of our States is public lands. So how decisions are 
made with respect to those is very important.
  Furthermore, we find ourselves with an increasing number of lawsuits. 
Unfortunately, we almost have ourselves in a position of managing 
through lawsuits as opposed to managing based on good decisions.
  I would like to talk a moment about venue shopping. We have been 
steamrolled in Federal land issues by judges who are thousands of miles 
away from the area where the question is raised. Specifically, these 
courts have systematically denied access to Yellowstone and Grand Teton 
National Parks. We have national parks to protect them, and at the same 
time, so that people can enjoy them and have access to them. Those are 
the important things.
  Special interest groups that have different feelings about it like to 
search out over the country for a venue where they think they can go 
that will give them the best opportunity to succeed in the lawsuits 
that they have filed. Environmentalists tend to go to a venue in 
Washington, DC, for a more sympathetic court than those courts

[[Page S7779]]

they are closest to and deal with the issues that are there. This 
action, of course, is contrary to the system of circuit courts, judges 
thousands of miles away from disputes involving certain impacted areas. 
Those lawsuits should be tried in the courts of primary jurisdiction 
because they are the courts that are there.

  We have had a real problem in Yellowstone National Park. The district 
court judge here in Washington decided to move back again on something 
that we thought was resolved. The Park Service had asked for relief 
from Judge Sullivan's December order because it would have left an 
impossible decision. It then moved back to a Wyoming court where it 
belonged, a Federal circuit court, of course. So now we find ourselves 
with 2 years of indecisiveness which means we have not made a decision. 
People don't know whether they can go into Yellowstone Park in the 
winter.
  I have introduced legislation that would limit the ability of 
individuals to venue shop. Federal land issues arising in a particular 
State ought to go to that circuit court in which the Federal judges 
there are involved. These Federal judges have the same qualifications 
as anywhere else, and that is what Federal courts are for. That is why 
we have different venues. So it is important. Access to public lands is 
very important to our State and certainly we need to exercise the 
system that has been set up.
  The Federal judiciary is a system of circuits. Wyoming is in the 
Tenth Circuit. Unfortunately, this system now allows people to go 
around the Tenth Circuit and go to another place where they think they 
will have better success.
  My friend from Montana is here. I hope and I am pushing for a bill 
that says you ought to go to the circuit in which the problem arises 
for the Federal court jurisdiction.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Montana.

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