Patten v. United States of America, No. 2:2009cv00308 - Document 6 (D. Nev. 2009)

Court Description: MEMORANDUM OPINION: The Judgment is Affirmed and the Appeal Denied. Signed by Chief Judge Roger L. Hunt on 03/30/09. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - SRK)
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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 DISTRICT OF NEVADA 6 *** 7 8 9 10 11 DAVID R. PATTEN, ) ) Defendant-Appellant, ) ) vs. ) ) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ) ) Plaintiff-Appelee. ) ____________________________________) 2:09-cv-308-RLH-GWF MEMORANDUM OPINION 12 13 Appeal from the Judgment of United States Magistrate Judge 14 Peggy A. Leen Following a No-Counsel Bench Trial of a Misdemeanor Citation 15 Issued by the United States Park Service 16 17 18 Before: Chief United States District Judge Roger L. Hunt On January 14, 2009, U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy A. Leen conducted a no-counsel 19 bench trial on citation #P0491195, issued to Appellant David R. Patten, charging him with 20 interfering with agency function, in violation of 36 C.F.R. ยง 2.32(a)(2). 21 Following the trial, Judge Leen convicted Appellant Patten of the offense and 22 assessed a fine. On February 13, 2009, Patten filed an Appeal to District Judge from a Judgment of 23 Conviction by a Magistrate in a Misdemeanor Case (#1). On February 18, 2009, by a Minute Order, 24 the Court ordered Appellant Patten to file his opening brief within fifteen (15) days. No such brief 25 was filed with the Court, so the Court is compelled to consider the Notice of Appeal, and the 26 explanation therein, as the basis for the appeal. 1 1 On March 29, 2009, the United States filed its Answering Brief in Opposition. 2 Failing to file an opening brief, Patten will not be permitted to file a reply in support of an opening 3 brief, and the matter is submitted for consideration. 4 The matter has been considered de novo. The Court has listened to the recording of 5 the trial before Judge Leen and considered all the documents filed and arguments made. This Court 6 affirms Judge Leen s judgment and Appellant Patten s conviction on the citation. 7 This Court will not rehearse the testimony, nor detail the facts. Suffice it to say that 8 on May 17, 2008, Patten was in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area hiking with several 9 friends, one of whom became physically unable to continue, to eat or drink water and complaining 10 of a migraine headache. Patten then ran to the trail head and called the Lake Mead ranger station, 11 reporting he had a hiking companion in distress on the Goldstrike trail. 12 A search and rescue operation was initiated by the Park Service, a helicopter 13 dispatched, the trail head was closed and Patten was directed to remain at the trail head for his safety 14 and to assist the ranger in the event there was communication with the distressed hiking companion 15 and the rest of the party. 16 Patten became frustrated with what he considered the Park Service s failure to act 17 efficiently or quickly enough. He questioned their decisions and procedures. He refused to permit 18 the ranger to talk to the distressed party when there was cell phone communication and ultimately 19 ignored the order to remain at the trail head and went down the trail in search of his friends. 20 His Appeal questions the decisions of the rescue officials and claims credit for the 21 ultimate location and rescue of the disabled hiker. He denies that he interfered with the rescue by 22 the Park Service. The testimony clearly shows otherwise. Furthermore, the citation charges him 23 with interference by disregarding a lawful order. 24 Notwithstanding that Patten disagreed with the order, that he thought the order was 25 ill-advised and inefficient, and notwithstanding his frustration that the rescue was taking longer that 26 he thought necessary, once he called for assistance in the rescue, those decisions were no longer his 2 1 to make. The procedures of the Park Service, even the decisions of the Park Service, may not have 2 been the best decisions. However, they were lawful. Particularly, the order for Patten to remain at 3 the trail head was a lawful order and Patten was obligated to follow it. 4 Patten suggests that Judge Leen refused to believe his testimony and only listened to 5 the testimony of the ranger. The trial record suggests the contrary. What Appellant failed to 6 recognize at trial, and in this appeal, is that the practices and procedures of the Park Service were 7 not on trial. Appellant is not obligated to follow a lawful order only if it is, in his opinion, a 8 reasonable order, or, in his opinion, the right order. He is obligated to follow such an order if it is 9 lawful. The Park Ranger s order was based upon the need for safety for persons, including 10 Appellant, on the trail, and the need to communicate with Patten s friends. Those were legitimate 11 reasons. They are legitimate reasons even if Appellant believed the process was too slow. They are 12 legitimate even if Appellant believed he could do it faster. It is lawfulness, not speed, that compels 13 his compliance. Judge Leen s decision would have been no different even if she believed every- 14 thing Patten said or believed. 15 Judge Leen was correct and properly found that Appellant Patten was guilty of the 16 allegations of the citation. A de novo review of the trial clearly establishes that the facts support 17 Judge Leen s judgment. He judgment was neither erroneous nor contrary to law. 18 Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed and the appeal denied. 19 Dated: March 30, 2009. 20 21 ____________________________________ Roger L. Hunt Chief United States District Judge 22 23 24 25 26 3