Strix the harbinger
guards the exit gate, quizzing all
Who will pass this night?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bryson's Marsh

"Bryson's Marsh" Mallards
I talked to Bill Bryson for more than an hour this afternoon. We talked about my late mother who went to school with him - he remembers her as a "real looker"  ;-), his family's health, vacations, both of our upcoming sandhill crane trips, and so on. Bill is a fountain of information. I should have recorded it somehow. Eventually we got around to the travails of the battle over the marsh. He said the local media, particularly the newspaper, was strongly against him, even printing skewed articles written by the opposing lawyer, and had no compunction at all about using their bully pulpit. They sent out reporters who told them the county was certain to win, they were threatening to charge Brysons for all the cost overruns incurred by the delays, and would that cause them to lose the farm? A sobering question. Brysons received midnight dead phone calls and threatening letters. There were potential drainage advantages involved and there are still people who won't talk to him. Even with reduced lawyer's fees and help from environmental groups, the court battle, including three rounds with the State Supreme Court, cost him over $18,000, a hefty sum in the 1970s. Eventually Jim Killen, a wildlife artist, did a run of prints, "Bryson's Marsh", signed by both himself and Bill to help defray the costs.

A commenter asked who actually wrote that poetic opinion. I thought it would be an easy Google. It turns out that Tuveson vs Bryson, or simply Bryson, has become a landmark case, establishing environmental rights for property owners. It's cited all over the internet and I was overwhelmed by lawyers. At 83 Bill has an amazing mind. He remembers everything, knows everybody, and remembers their addresses and phone numbers. He has been president of every state conservation group from the Nature Conservancy to the Audubon Society (and for Margadant, he's also deep in the Sierra Club). So I just asked him who wrote the opinion. It was Justice Lawrence Yetka who wrote the opinion for the court. Or as Bill says, "It was Larry Yetka", just one more person who went on to become a friend with a telephone number to remember.

According to Margadant, who made his living with this environmental law stuff with the Sierra Club, "landmark case" would seem to be a bit strong. Maybe it's mostly cited by wishful thinking philosophers. See his comment. I would expect more info from him in the future.

2 comments:

Margadant said...

You've got me hooked now.

A summary of Justice "Larry" Yetka's written opinions shows that he did write for the majority in Freeborn Co. by Tuveson v. Bryson, 234 NW2d 316 (1976). The summary also reveals that "Larry" wrote a dissenting opinion in Freeborn Co. v. Bryson, 294 NW2d 851 (1980). That was an eminent domain case.

While the first case is cited as a case of first impression in other Minnesota decisions, it was not designated as an "important case" in the summary of Yetka's writings. The summary notes that Justice Yetka designated his dissent in the second Bryson case as an "important case."

Now I've got to go find a law library. Fine kettle of fish for a recovering lawyer to be in.

Anonymous said...

i am impressed as well...i doubt its 50/50 what i remember vs. what i can't recall or have simply forgot....."unforgettable" is that nat king cole and spelled right...take care....kcr