CORVA Contests PEER’s Writ of Mandate to Shut Down Ocotillo Wells SVRA

You might recall that the thirteenth of December fell on a Friday last week. This date did not turn out so well for the anti-access groups, Professional Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Desert Protective Council Foundation (DPC), who had their Writ of Mandate to stop operations at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area dismissed thanks to our friends at the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA).

CORVA asked for and was given Leave to File a Complaint in Intervention. CORVA then filed a Demurrer supporting California State Parks. The Court agreed with CORVA’s Demurrer and dismissed PEER’s Writ with Leave to Amend.

A Writ of Mandate is filed with the Court to force a state entity to comply with a specific law directed at that entity. It can only be used to compel non-discretionary duties (ministerial). See the following site for the original Writ filed by PEER in their action against State Parks: http://www.peer.org/assets/docs/ca/5_21_13_Petition_for_Writ_of_Mandate_Ocotillo_SVRA_Final.pdf

A Demurrer challenges the legal sufficiency of a Cause of Action or an entire Complaint. If a Cause of Action in a Complaint does not state a cognizable claim (e.g., the claim is gibberish) or if it does not state all the required legal elements of a claim, then the challenged Cause of Action or possibly the entire Complaint can be “thrown out” by Demurrer.

A Demurrer is typically filed near the beginning of a case, in response to the plaintiff filing a Complaint. This is done because a Demurrer does not challenge the facts alleged in the Complaint, nor does it contest the ultimate merits of a case or claim. A Demurrer only contests the legal sufficiency of the Complaint itself. Often a Complaint can be rescued by filing an amended pleading which is not subject to Demurrer.

The Court ruled in favor of State Parks and CORVA. It held that the duties that PEER alleged in their Writ (Complaint)were not purely ministerial (non-discretionary) because PEER had not alleged that State Parks had completely failed to act. The Court said that State Parks had discretion in how to protect natural, cultural and archeological resources.  The Court also ruled that PEER had not alleged that State Parks actions were so palpably unreasonable and arbitrary so as to constitute an abuse of discretion as a matter of law.

In short, the Court sustained CORVA’s Demurrer on the grounds that PEER’s Writ (Complaint) failed to allege facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action. The Court upheld the right of State Parks to continue operations at Ocotillo Wells SVRA. PEER has 20 days after the Court’s dismissal to refile their Writ (Complaint) if they can do it in such a way so as to overcome the Demurrer.   If that occurs CORVA has stated that its attorney is ready to file another court action to ensure this suit is permanently dismissed.

“For over 40 years CORVA has been dedicated to keeping public land open by advocating for off-road access, educating off-road enthusiasts, and representing off-road interests with governmental agencies. CORVA has worked tirelessly to defend all types of off-road and off highway vehicular recreation including the initiation of many legal efforts aimed at protecting the rights of off-road to access and enjoy the deserts, mountains, and coasts of California.” http://corva.org/

CORVA is a prime example of a group of off road enthusiasts who actually do something to save our public riding areas. CORVA should be supported by all off-highway motor vehicle riders and drivers both by joining CORVA and by contributing money to their fight for our right to ride. It isn’t over until it is over, but we applaud CORVA with all our hearts for their hard work and fearless leadership.

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